'Fuel prices affecting food production very seriously'

HARD HIT: Taxi driver Khipha Mtshali says the spiralling price of petrol is costing taxi operators a lot because they now have to pay more at filling stations every day. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo. 04/06/08. © Sowetan.
HARD HIT: Taxi driver Khipha Mtshali says the spiralling price of petrol is costing taxi operators a lot because they now have to pay more at filling stations every day. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo. 04/06/08. © Sowetan.

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

The spiralling fuel prices are having an adverse effect on food production. With the prices of basic foodstuffs already high, a farming organisation and an economist warned yesterday that the worst was still to come.

National African Farmers Union chief executive Molefe Mokoene said food production is in danger because of the high price of diesel.

With winter being harvesting season, Mokoene said machinery used by farmers consumes a lot of diesel, which had now become too expensive. He said this had become a daily lament by farmers because they also faced high interest rates on loans.

"There is a danger that farmers, especially those who are starting out, will be out of business.

"Some have turned to cultivating half of their land to save on fuel and labour costs. This affects food production negatively."

Mokoene said costs like input supplies, such as fertilisers delivered by road to the farms, had also gone up.

Absa economist Jacque du Toit said recent developments would make it difficult for food prices to be affordable.

"Fuel has a negative effect on food harvesting and transportation, especially via roads," he said.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said South Africa had the capacity to curb fuel prices.

Craven said Sasol produced fuel from coal and that this production was not affected by global oil prices. "Sasol should be re-nationalised to provide affordable fuel to South Africans."

However, Sputnik Ratau, spokesman for the Department of Minerals and Energy, said with the technology that it had, Sasol could only supply 21 percent of South Africa's fuel needs. "That is a fraction of the total demand."

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