FOREIGN SUBSIDIES DISTORT MARKET
Wheat industry in distress as farmers switch to crops that bring in dough
The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that last season, more wheat was imported than produced locally
Local wheat production has been in decline since 2000 as farmers are dumping the crop in favour of more profitable produce such as maize and soya beans. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that last season, more wheat – about 1.8-million tonnes — was imported than produced locally. The final wheat crop in 2015-16 reached 1.4-million tonnes. Total wheat production in 2000 was 2.43-million tonnes. Absa senior agricultural economist Wessel Lemmer says the wheat industry is in distress. He points to a declining trend in wheat-planted areas and too little support from the government and industry. "The problem with wheat is that it is difficult to produce profitably, which makes the industry vulnerable to imports. As soon as you have an industry that produces 50% and less of demand, the industry begins to lose its production capacity, and when farmers can’t produce profit, they divest," he says. Some of the countries SA imports wheat from include the US, Argentina, Australia,...