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3 February 2002
Rands & Dollars  

can we still feed ourselves? 
 
With the severe beating the Rand received over the last two months of 2001, it is not surprising that most citizens are a bit wary on how they spend their money. December saw a huge increase in sales of all things imported like electronics and motorvehicles. 

With this the fuel price have gone up accompanied by all and sundry linked directly and indirectly to transport. Stock that's been sitting on shelves or in storerooms for months if not years, are all marked-up by the relevant percentage to make up for a possible shortfall on the re-order side. Morally I think this sucks! Then again, if my lifelyhood depended on it, I would probably do the same. But what about locally produced goods? 

South African farmers produced about a million tons less maize and six hundred tons less wheat last year. Risk factors are too great, they said. The direct result is of course, a big shortage in the country's needs. Commodities like milk and eggs are directly affected, and even more so, the consumer. 
The farmers argue that all farming related activities/equipment are Dollar linked. Sure, implements are imported - what? If you want John Deere, then sure. What's wrong with locally manufactured equipment? Surely it must be cheaper, even considering imported parts / components? Or are the farmers maybe a bit spoilt? 
Johan Willemse, an agri-economist with Proper Group (a farmer's organisation) reckons that the South African market is moving closer to "import parity". And this is exactly where farmers and other producers want the market to be. Economically it makes sense. Why sell your product for banana republic currency if you can make Dollars and Pounds? I suppose there is no moral obligation here. 

With a regional shortage of food, especially staple foods in Zimbabwe (ruled by the sifilis infected brain), Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Lesotho, South Africans are in for a pretty hard time. A regional shortage of some two million tons of grain, according to the WFO - what will become of Africa? 

Now let's look to the farmer - government is reluctant to provide subsidies (less cash in their pockets) and guarantees. Because of this, banks won't grant loans to farmers. Now why should the farmer be out on his/her own increasing production and facing the risk of loosing it all due to natures' forces, not even talking about striking workers, theft, fire or murder? SADC countries are now importing from South African producers at Dollar related prices. This I won't even consider as a temptation, this is good economic sense. How else will these people (the producers) survive? 

We've been importing poultry and red meat for the past couple of years from Europe and the States with international prices increasing by 30%. It's expensive at it was.  

In my industry we used to import (purchase) unfinished products from Germany, finish the manufacturing process and sell these products back to the original supplier. It was cheaper for the supplier and we made a profit at the end of the day. The wheel turns full circle though once that product gets imported again as part of another finished product which has a market locally. The South African consumer pays at the end of the day. 

Bottom Dollar question - did the government think that the South African economy was ready for international markets? Did they think that by opening the markets South Africa will prosper? Did they think that with the minimal support and no preparation South Africans will survive? With the arms deal debacle, the third cellular operator license and numerous other scandals / misrepresentations / inadequate planning, is there still faith in the governance by the ANC of this country? 

It is silly and short-sighted to still refer to the "good old days". The *"when we" era is past, the world is moving on and so must we. A country should be run like a business, nothing less. Alas, sad to say, the ANC is a family affair. All in it for the money and the good life. 

Africa has and always will be a third world. This economy sucks!

* In the "old days" we fondly referred to ex-Rhodesians as "when we's". With a major influx of Rhodesians in the Eighties who found it hard to adopt to South Africa that was how they referred to their past. Now we seem to be in the same boat.