By Tanisha Heiberg
JOHANNESBURG, July 13 (Reuters) – South African farmers have been hit by days of unrest and looting as trucks of produce are prevented from delivering to markets, threatening food supplies, industry officials said.
Crowds clashed with police this week and ransacked shopping malls, killing dozen as complaints sparked by the detention of former President Jacob Zuma last week turned into the worst violence in years.
Some of the country’s main highways have been closed.
“Farmers have already suffered great losses because they cannot get their products to the local markets and shops,” said Christo van der Rheede, managing director of the country’s main agricultural association, AgriSA.
One of AgriSA’s farmers has already reported a loss of 3 million rand ($ 205,333) in perishable products that could not be transported, van der Rheede said.
All sugar factories in Kwazulu-Natal – the main sugar-growing area and one of the provinces hardest hit by the unrest – have closed after sugar cane trucks were hijacked, mills threatened and sugar cane farms set on fire, said Thomas Funke, CEO of South African Canegrowers.
“So far, around 300,000 tons of sugar cane have been burned. That is around 180 million rand in cultivation revenue, ”said Funke.
Sugar producer Tongaat Hulets said its mills and refinery had also closed.
Justin Chadwick, chief executive of the Citrus Growers Association, said exports of citrus fruits have also stopped because trucks cannot use the main roads leading to the port of Durban, where more than half of the citrus fruits are exported.
South Africa is the second largest exporter of fresh citrus fruits after Spain.
President Cyril Ramaphosa warned on Monday that a disruption in supply chains could lead to food and drug shortages in the coming weeks.
The story goes on
The effects could already be seen in Durban. On Tuesday, consumers were queuing to buy basic groceries in some supermarkets that remained open.
Food panic set in in some areas where supermarkets were closed.
“All shops are closed. We will soon run out of bread,” said Neli Zulu, a resident of Pietermaritzburg, another area badly affected by the unrest.
($ 1 = 14.6104 Rand) (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg Additional reporting by Zandi Shabalala Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Mark Potter)