DIRE SITUATION: A drought-affected maize crop is seen near Paris, Missouri. Picture: REUTERS
DIRE SITUATION: A drought-affected maize crop is seen near Paris, Missouri. Picture: REUTERS

THE spot price of white maize reached a record high of R5,140 a ton in Monday morning trade.

Grain prices have been creeping up for the past year due the drought ravaging SA in what has been both the hottest and driest summer in more than a century.

The white maize spot price ended 2014 at R2,121 a ton so the price has more than doubled since then. It rose nearly 120% during the course of 2015 and is already up more than 10% since the start of this year.

The drought and the resulting grain prices have forced livestock farmers to slaughter early, which has brought meat prices down in the short term. This is unlikely to last, however, as the net result will be a shortage of red meat, which will send prices soaring again in the relatively near future.

Bennie van Zyl, GM of farmers’ union TAU says the price of staple food at this level will have far-reaching repercussions for the country. "High prices do affect food security, though food will remain available.

"Of greater concern is the ripple effect farm failures will have on rural communities. When farmers go bankrupt, it has a degenerative socioeconomic effect. As it is, farmers are the backbone of the social structure in communities where government delivery has long ceased.

"Moreover, people will lose their jobs and flock to the cities, where there are no jobs. The result is yet more crime and a further erosion of investor confidence," said Mr Van Zyl.

"It will become clear, in retrospect, that the government should have declared a national disaster. But it did not. Now we have to ask whether this lesson has been learnt."