Worrying drought drives up South African maize prices

Maize prices in South Africa have hit record highs as the country faces its worst drought in decades.

The March contract for the white variety scale of maize has reached a new peak of 5,106 rand (€279) a tonne, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In worst-hit countries such as Malawi, much of the maize crop is produced by small-scale farmers, often just to feed their own families.

The vast majority are utterly dependent on rainfall as they cannot afford irrigation systems.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is predicting that around 14m people face hunger in southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern.

“With little or no rain falling in many areas and the window for the planting of cereals closing fast or already closed in some countries, the outlook is alarming,” the UN agency stated.

“WFP is looking to scale up its lean season food and cash-based assistance programmes in the worst-hit countries but faces critical funding challenges.”

The drought has hit much of the region, including the maize belt in South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy, and the top producer of the staple grain.


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