Poor road and rail transport networks in South Africa may threaten its food security, hampering the country’s ability to import, process and distribute basic food stuffs, a newspaper said.

South Africa’s Business Day newspaper reported on Friday that crumbling rural road networks and problems with rail and logistics group Transnet’s freight service were adversely affecting the food distribution chain.

The grain industry was facing critical transport problems, Kobus Laubscher, general manager of grain farmers’ union GrainSA, told the paper.

“Farmers are struggling to bring their harvest to the silos via roads that they have to share with a greatly increased number of heavy vehicles,” the paper quoted Laubscher as saying.
South Africa – the biggest producer of maize on the continent and a top global exporter – harvested its biggest maize crop in about 13 years during the 2007/08 season.

Hopes were high that the 12.70 million ton crop would help food security and ease food prices.

The Business Day also said wheat farmers in the eastern part of the Free State grain belt were likely to produce their lowest wheat crop in 30 years this year.

A poor harvest would mean South Africa would have to import more, and farm officials said the existing transport conditions meant it was not easy to keep mills supplied.

The country is Africa’s third largest producer of the grain and produced only 1.9 million tons of wheat last year despite consumption of about 2.8 million tons a year.

The department of agriculture’s Crop Estimates Committee has forecast the 2008 wheat crop at 2.02 million tons.

PUBLICATION: www.iol.co.za
AUTHOR: Reuters
DATED: 23rd January 2009