Black frost will see vegetable prices rocket

The severe cold and frost that hit Limpopo could prove very costly to vegetable farmers in those areas.

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“Frost damage in the northern Transvaal [Limpopo] is extensive,” said RSA Market Agents salesperson Johan du Bruin. “A huge area including Groblersdal, Marble Hall and Polokwane was very badly hit. We think more than 20% off all new crops have had total damage. Two-month old potatoes are extensively damaged.

“Some vegetable producers in KZN have also been hit. However, the Western Cape, which is one of our biggest vegetable producing areas, is unharmed.”

Temperatures as low as -10°C were recorded in the Soutpansberg region. De Bruin said consumers could expect a huge upswing in vegetable prices in coming months. “It’s going to be terrible. The shortage might only become visible in two-and-a-half months’ time. We think September prices will explode because there is not enough time to plant another crop. Tomatoes are already up to R100/box.

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Green beans are nearly R50/kg, and they normally sell at R6/kg to R7/kg.” De Bruin said farmers in frost-prone areas aren’t able to insure their crops against frost.

“Once they have lost their crops to frost, it’s the same thing as a person who loses their job. The saddest loss is they will probably have to lay off workers to survive.”

Farmers might only replant in six weeks, due to the frost, said De Bruin. Sugarcane farmers in the KZN midlands were not spared the biting cold.

Noodsberg Mill cane procurement officer Fanie Horn said terrible frosts were widespread across the area. Growers in the Noodsberg area, particularly those at New Hanover, Wartburg and Dalton, were worst affected. On 16 June, grass temperatures plummeted to -5°C and air temperatures to -1°C.

“We had black frost and a lot of severe fourth-stage damage to cane. We need to get the damaged cane harvested as soon as possible as sucrose quality deteriorates quickly,” said Horn.

“At this stage, it looks like 124 000 tons of cane has been affected with first- to fifth-stage damage. That could go higher if we get another cold front.”