Farmers painted a grim picture on the country's food security levels amidst a ravaging drought. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - Commercial farmers in South Africa on Tuesday painted a grim picture on the country's food security levels amidst a ravaging drought which they said has so far affected more than 37 percent of rural communities.

AgriSA -- a federation of agricultural organisations which consists of nine provincial and 26 commodity organisations -- said its affiliates have raised the alarm over the impact of the drought.

"About 37.5 percent of all rural communities at this stage are affected by the drought. All of us know about the drought which started in 2012-13, and all of us were very relieved when Day Zero in the Western Cape ended and when we had a huge crop of maize," Willem Symington, Agri Northern Cape deputy president and head of the newly established AgriSA's disaster management centre said in Pretoria. 

"We are at this stage in a drier spell, a drier climatic period, and accumulative effects of the drought since 2013 notwithstanding the better years in between has left us in a challenging position," he said.

"It is not only on the technical side, as far as farming is concerned, but we are suffering financial constraints as well especially in the crop growing industry. Farmers are under severe financial strain because they have got carry-over debts, the yields per year are less, and they are planting less each year because of the drought conditions. The livestock farming sector is in a very poor position."

He said stock levels are diminishing, and a loss of production owing to lack of adequate grazing.

"In the Western Cape, in the wine and food-producing sectors we have seen a loss of about 25 percent in the value of products exported. They have a further challenge in that it is a labour-intensive industry and they shed jobs at an alarming rate as soon as you get drought conditions. Already we have seen job losses in the Northern Cape of up to 23 percent and in the Free State they are up to 25 percent," said Symington.

He said South Africa has not been managing climatic disasters well.

"There is lots of work for everybody to be done to make us more resilient towards climatic changes and to mitigate the effects thereof. My concern is, this can cause food insecurity or a less food security. Food is available in South Africa but that is not something that is a given. It's something that has to be worked on, and it's something that can change," said Symington.

African News Agency (ANA)