Floods play havoc with food prices

Image courtesy of Stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Stock.xchng

Vegetable prices on the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market are skyrocketing because of the extensive and prolonged rain in the northern parts of the country.

Prices of eggs, milk, pork and chicken will also be affected by excessive rain in Mpumalanga where maize and soya used for animal feed are being damaged by rain.

This comes against the background of already high meat and maize prices in the wake of the drought in the past two years.

Christ Roodt, MD of market agents Botha Roodt told Business that the supply of vegetables, including potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, different kinds of pumpkins and green peppers is declining and the quality is deteriorating on the market due to the excessive rain as mud makes harvesting impossible in most areas.

He said vegetable prices are currently about 30% higher than at the same time last year and this situation may continue until May.

“Normally vegetable prices are a bit lower at this time of the year, but this year we first had hail and now the rain,” he said.

He said it’s not only the current harvest that is affected, but the next will be delayed due to overly wet conditions. “There will be a production gap,” he said.

He said talk among supermarket groups who buy directly from producers is that vegetable volumes have dropped by about 8%, which he said is significant in the market.

He advises consumers to buy their vegetables regularly and in smaller quantities, as the quality has deteriorated due to the rain, shortening the shelf life.

Professor Johan Willemse, agricultural economist at the University of the Free State, expects vegetable prices to only stabilise after the winter.

He told Business white maize prices are at an all-time high after severe droughts in 2012 and 2013. “The stock we had in the silos have now been exhausted. White maize is the staple food for the poor and is currently very expensive”, he said.

Three shiploads of yellow maize that are being imported from the Ukraine for the Western Cape market are late and white maize is not available for import.

Price relief will come with the next harvest, but that will be delayed from April to May due to wet conditions, he said. “It will only make a difference to the price on the store shelf in September”, Willemse said.

He said yellow maize and soya are sustaining rain damage and may be rotting on the land due to wet conditions in Mpumalanga. The deteriorating volumes and quality will be reflected in the prices of milk, eggs, chicken and pork since it is being used as feed for chickens, dairy cows and pigs.

The prices of beef and mutton have already risen as farmers are reducing the numbers of animals for slaughter.

They are holding back in order to build herds that were depleted during the drought in the past two years, Willemse said.

He said while official numbers for food inflation stands at 5-6%, the actual annual increase on a basket of food may be closer to


“Poor people spend up to half of their income on food and the effect on them will be more dramatic than on the middle class and more affluent households,” Willemse said.




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