2. Africa: Bumper harvests translate into lower prices for farmers (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, Reuters)

| December 15, 2008

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Farmers in several African countries raked in bumper harvests this season, but good harvests don’t always mean good profits.

In Burkina Faso, this year’s rice harvest was three times larger than last year’s. Thanks to a favourable rainy season and government subsidies on seeds and fertilizers, Burkinabé farmers produced 235,000 tonnes of rice.

In Burkinabé markets, local rice sells for 62 American cents (about 0.45 Euros) per kilogram – a higher price than last year. But the country’s Agriculture Ministry wants a lower price – a flat rate of 22 American cents per kilogram.

Farmers are unimpressed with the proposal. Bassiaka Dao is chair of the Confederation of Peasant Farmers, Burkina Faso’s largest farmers’ union. He says rice farmers go into debt investing in fertilizer, pesticides, and fuel – all of which have increased in price. Mr. Dao says farmers need higher prices to make ends meet.

Even without price controls, the ample supply that a good harvest provides often leads to lower prices for farmers. South African maize farmers took in their best harvest in 13 years. Some 12.7 million tonnes of maize were produced, exceeding all forecasts.

An estimated 500,000 tonnes of maize was kept by farmers, while the rest was up for trade. Reports of high supply caused the market price of maize to drop. The price of white maize fell by 2.4 per cent to 1,709 South African rand per tonne (about $168 American dollars or 123 Euros), while the price of yellow maize fell by 2.8 per cent to 1,660 rand per tonne (about $163 American dollars or 119 Euros).
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on bumper harvest