FOOD PRICES SOAR AS FROST CUTS OUTPUT

POOR weather and higher input costs have lifted food prices in South Africa by up to 205percent - in the case of tomatoes - with further increases expected later this year, farmers' groups said yesterday.

POOR weather and higher input costs have lifted food prices in South Africa by up to 205percent - in the case of tomatoes - with further increases expected later this year, farmers' groups said yesterday.

Producers said frost in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, Africa's main agricultural hub, had cut output of some citrus fruits and vegetables and this would lead to even higher prices.

Local media reports showed that prices of vegetables had risen sharply by between 29 and 205percent.

The industry and information manager of Potatoes South Africa, Pieter van Zyl, said growers had lost 7percent of total production, or 2,5million 10kg bags of potatoes, due to cold weather.

"We had severe frost in June in the Limpopo province and as a result we lost 7percent of our crop. We will most probably see from August and September higher than normal potato prices," Van Zyl said.

Phillip van Zyl, chairperson of South Africa's largest tomato growers association, said crops in higher lying areas had suffered some damage and the 2010 total output would decline by around 5percent due to extremely cold spells in those areas.

Andre Jooste, senior manager of the National Agriculture Marketing Council, said producers of fruit had also been affected.

"Production volumes will certainly be lower and this will push up prices," Jooste said. He said it was difficult to immediately quantify the losses. South Africa is an exporter of fruit and vegetables, mainly to Europe.

Hugh Campbell, general manager of DSPT Research, which conducts agricultural research, said growers of nectarines and peaches in Mpumalanga and Limpopo were expected to lose some produce. "Nectarine varieties which blossom in July face a risk caused by frost."

The Business Report newspaper, also citing farmers' groups, separately said higher input costs and tough market conditions would add to increasing prices and this would threaten food security. - Reuters

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