Cape Town – South Africa is relying less on imports of dairy products and red meat, while maize stocks were up 33 percent, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson said on Wednesdsay.
Responding to a parliamentary question raised in the National Assembly on food security, Joemat-Pettersson said imports of milk and milk products had decreased by 3.4 percent, from 37 664 tons in 2008 to 36 389 tons during 2009.
She said when the figures for the imports of dairy products are reported, these are expected to have fallen by 66.8 percent to 12 077 tons, after an improvement in local milk production, she said.
Imports of red meat decreased by 11.5 percent from 50 123 tons in 2008/09 to 44 378 tons in 2009/10, which is also 25.4 percent lower than the average of about 59 522 tons for the five years up to 2009/10, she said.
Meanwhile, the projected closing stocks of maize for the current 2010/11 marketing season are 2 840 million tons – 33.3 percent more than the previous season’s 2 131 million tons – mainly thanks to a higher production of maize during the 2009/10 season.
Joemat-Pettersson said South Africa usually had the capacity to cover the maize import needs of neighbouring countries experiencing shortages and also exported to countries such as Kenya, Korea, Kuwait, Somalia and Spain.
However, while the country’s milk production and maize production may have increased, imports of chicken have increased, the sorghum yield is down, canola production has dropped and South Africa still relies on overseas markets for about a third of its wheat demand said Joemat-Pettersson.
Broiler meat imports from January to June last year were 127 902 tons – an increase of 10.3 percent from the same period in 2009.
During 2009, about 72 percent of South African poultry imports were from Brazil and 14 percent from Argentina.
Because of a smaller sorghum crop in the 2009/10 season, closing stock of sorghum at the end of March came to about 44 200 tons, which is 52.6 percent less than the previous season’s 93 200 tons, said Joemat-Pettersson.
Canola production is expected to decrease by 1.7 percent from 40 350 tons to 39 650 tons, while the estimated area planted to canola decreased by 0.7 percent from 35 060 ha in 2009 to 34 820 ha in 2010.
“The decrease in production can most likely be ascribed to a number of factors, with the main one probably being low and fluctuating yields. During this period, some canola producers in the Western Cape experienced extensive damage by slugs and isopods,” said Joemat-Pettersson.
South Africa’s water scarcity was largely behind the country’s need to rely on various food imports, Joemat-Pettersson said.
Only 13 percent of South Africa’s land can be used for crop production of which 22 percent of this is high-potential arable land, she pointed out.
“The most important limiting factor is the availability of water. Rainfall is distributed unevenly across the country, with some areas prone to drought. Almost 50 percent of South Africa’s water is used for agriculture, with about 1.3 million hectares under irrigation,” she said.
In response to another parliamentary question raised in the National Assembly, Joemat-Pettersson said farmers had been encouraged to adopt cultivation practices that conserve water – including practices such as mulching, crop rotation, strip cropping and minimum tillage, among other things.
The department, together with provincial departments of agriculture, is also rehabilitating a number of old irrigation schemes, particularly in former homeland areas, replacing irrigation equipment with those that uses less water.
Added to this, farmers were also being encouraged to adopt drought tolerant cultivars as part of the farming systems and the department is supporting a number of breeding programmes at the department’s Agricultural Research Council and the Water Research Commission.
The department is also promoting the adoption of water harvesting technologies which have proven effective in increasing crop yields, she said. – BuaNews