Home News Eloise: SA grains could save Moz from food crisis

Eloise: SA grains could save Moz from food crisis

South African farmers are expected to come off fairly lightly from tropical storm Eloise, which is currently causing torrential rains and high winds in eastern parts of the country. While Mozambique faces a food crisis because of great agricultural losses, it is expected that grain surpluses from Mzansi could keep the region fed


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Farmers in the eastern parts of Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal are fearing severe crop damage as tropical storm Eloise continues to wreak havoc through heavy rains and strong winds.

The storm, which initially hit Madagascar and Mozambique as a cyclone, was downgraded when it lost its strength just before it hit Mzansi, according to the South African Weather Service (SAWS).

Government confirms that a multi-disciplinary intervention has been launched to curb the impact of tropical storm Elouise. Floods in parts of Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga have caused severe damage. Photo: @NationalCOGTA/Twitter
Government confirms that a multi-disciplinary intervention has been launched to curb the impact of tropical storm Elouise. Photo: @NationalCOGTA/Twitter

In Mozambique, Eloise left behind a trail of destruction. It left at least 7 000 people displaced while destroying 9 schools, 11 hospitals and thousands of hectares of crops.

Eloise will only lose its strength by Wednesday, says the SAWS. When Eloise hit South Africa last Saturday, wind speeds of up to 160 km/h were measured. At the moment, the wind and rain are less severe, but further flooding is inevitable.

‘We are very nervous’

Mahlahlo Thibela, a spinach farmer from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga, tells Food For Mzansi he is extremely anxious after Eloise’s weather impact started damaging his crops.

Taetso Tsebogo (23) and Mahlahlo Thibela (21) started their poultry and spinach farming enterprise with the help of their NSFAS bursaries. Photo: Supplied.
Mahlahlo Thibela farms with spinach in Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga. Photo: Supplied

“I don’t want to lie. We are feeling very nervous,” he says. Mpumalanga and Limpopo are battling as many have been left homeless after their roofs were blown off and walls collapsed.

In Limpopo, the Vhembe district has recorded severe damage with shocking pictures of residents carrying coffins while crossing a flooding river emerging on social media. Many towns have been cut off from electricity too.

“We are so worried that we might wake up in the morning and our spinach would be destroyed,” says Thibela.

“If we had nets, maybe our spinach would be protected, but we can’t even do that because the ground is too wet. We just planted this spinach, and it will be a loss if it ends up getting destroyed even further.”

ALSO READ: Fighting poverty with entrepreneurship and NSFAS bursaries

Limpopo farmer Avhapfani “Chillyboy” Rathando. Photo: Supplied/FoodForMzansi

Limpopo farmer Avhapfani “Chillyboy” Rathando is relieved that he has not suffered damage to his infrastructure or crops. He fears, however, that this could change as vast areas of the province is already flooded, with many roads washed away.

“It would be very bad if the rain and damaging winds lasted for more than five days,” says Rathando who farms with vegetables in Thohoyandou.

“I hope that doesn’t happen. Thankfully for now, the damages (around me) are only on the roads.”

‘What if dams start overflowing?’

Deidré Carter, CEO of Agri Limpopo. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Deidré Carter, CEO of Agri Limpopo. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Agri Limpopo chief executive Deidré Carter confirms to Food For Mzansi that farmers in this province received between 80mm and 200mm rain on average.

At the time of speaking to Food For Mzansi late on Monday afternoon, farmers in Limpopo have not reported any damage to crops or infrastructure to Agri Limpopo, says Carter.

“The real concern is with some of the dam levels which have risen between 60% and 89% within, like, 12 hours. Some dams have reached up to 100%.

“What will happen if the dams actually start overflowing? This will lead to masses of water, and that is what we just hope is not going to happen.”

Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal fear severe crop damage in the wake of tropical storm Eloise. Photos: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Farmers in parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal fear severe crop damage in the wake of tropical storm Eloise. Photos: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Looming food crisis

While the exact scale of Eloise’s impact is yet to fully unfold, Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz, says early indications are that Mozambique could already be facing another food crisis.

Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz. Photo: Supplied.
Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz. Photo: Supplied

Sihlobo, however, remains optimistic about Eloise’s impact on food security in Mzansi. The local agricultural sector, primarily staple grains, should remain mostly unaffected, he predicts.

“The SAWS indicates possible destructive winds, mainly in the eastern regions of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The horticultural fields in these areas, however, could be affected,” he says in Agbiz’s weekly agricultural note.

On average, Mozambique imports roughly 139 000 tonnes of maize, 632 000 tonnes of rice, and 729 000 tonnes of wheat per year to fulfil its domestic needs, according to data from the United States department of agriculture.

However, under a scenario of minimal damage in South Africa’s grain-producing regions, Sihlobo says the Southern Africa region will have sufficient supplies from South Africa and Zambia.

“The 16.50 million tonnes of maize that we estimate for South Africa far outstrip the annual consumption of 11.4 million tonnes, meaning that there could be over 2.0 million tonnes of maize for the export market.

“Such volumes will fulfil the needs of affected areas of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi if such a need arises,” says Sihlobo.



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Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.


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