Drought devastates crops in Free State

The current drought in the central and western parts of the summer grain production region in SA has had a devastating impact on crops in the Free State.

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Major damage has occurred in Bothaville, Viljoenskroon, Heilbron, Tweeling and Villiers, among others, according to Free State Agriculture (FSA).

The drought will inevitably impact on rural economies, said FSA CEO Henk Vermeulen in a statement.

Even if only 20% of the SA white maize harvest is lost, this will in all probability result in increased food prices which will have a marked impact on consumers’ buying power, said FSA.

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Job losses are a serious cause for concern since the rural economy of the Free State depends heavily on agriculture. Nearly 60% of job opportunities in Nala Local Municipality, which includes the town of Bothaville, are created by agriculture and households.

In the Ngwathe Local Municipality, which includes the town of Heilbron, 48% of jobs are created by agriculture and households, according to the FSA statement.

“This drought could have an impact on farmers’ buying power resulting in job losses and eventually elevated crime rates,” said Vermeulen.