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Johannesburg - The Finance Ministry has approved an increase of wheat import duties by 34 percent to the highest on record to protect local farmers, but asked the trade commission to review the formula because it is concerned about the higher tariff’s effect on food prices.

The tariff on wheat imports was now R1 224.31 a ton, in line with the International Trade Administration Commission’s current formula, the ministry said on Friday.

Read: Cost of maize soars

The department has proposed to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies that he considers “an urgent and accelerated review” of the formula, and that this will also be followed by probes into the calculations for sugar and maize.

“The Ministry of Finance is particularly concerned about the impact of the higher import duty on wheat on the price of bread and other staple food, but also mindful of the need to ensure policy certainty, food security and the financial health of the farming industry,” it said.

While South Africa is the sub-Saharan region’s biggest producer of wheat after Ethiopia, it is still a net importer of the grain. The driest conditions since 1992 have damaged crops and livestock and sent local wheat prices to the highest on record, driving up food prices.