Limpopo farmers predict crop shortages after cold front, black frost

Low temperatures in the northern parts of the country have caused damage to crops, with farmers warning of potential food shortages.

The Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa said this week that a black frost had affected most of Limpopo on Sunday. The chairperson of the North Region, Henk van de Graaf, said that feedback from farmers indicated enormous losses.

“Reports of severe black frost have been received from the Soutpansberg mountain region, Levubu, Marble Hall, Arabie and Bela-Bela. We are still busy with a complete survey that we will submit to the provincial and national governments,” Van de Graaf said. 

The survey will include where the damage was suffered, which crops, the number of hectares involved and an estimate of the financial losses. 

The farmers’ union said some of the crops that were severely affected were potatoes and tomatoes. Damage to infrastructure such as water pipes was also reported.

“Particularly, potato farmers are currently very vulnerable after they also suffered severe damage in previous seasons and are still trying to recover from it,” Van de Graaf said. 

In 2021, the northern parts of the country experienced icy weather coupled with frost that led to lower volumes of potatoes on fresh produce markets, and a subsequent increase in prices.

“We want the provincial MEC of agriculture, Grace Kekana, as well as the national minister of agriculture, John Steenhuisen, to visit the affected areas to familiarise themselves with the damage, with a view to providing possible assistance,” Van de Graaf said.

The South African Weather Service issued a warning on Friday that there would be a cold snap from Sunday until Tuesday. 

“Tuesday morning will be the coldest morning of the year so far, with many localities over the interior of the country expected to drop well below freezing, with widespread morning frost anticipated,” the weather service said.

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