The South African government brought hope to grain farmers who are struggling to find alternative markets to dispose of surplus maize following a bumper crop that drove prices down.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said South Africa is talking to China about a much-needed alternative market.
South Africa is the continent's largest producer of maize and produced a surplus of about 4-million tons for the 2009/10 season.
She said that although China does not import maize as a necessity, "they import value- added products which would be cattle feed and poultry feed, so the discussions we are having would be to use some of the maize for value-addition, which would then mean that we set up systems for agro-processing for the surplus maize that we do have".
Grain SA, the body that represents most of SA's maize, wheat and soya producers, last week estimated that up to 10,800 small farmers face bankruptcy due to a record maize harvest of 13-million tons, which had a deleterious effect on prices.
Last month, Grain SA chairman Neels Ferreira called for the interventions of the departments of trade and industry as well as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, saying the farmers want an urgent solution, given the danger of their produce being wasted because they cannot dispose of all of it in the local market.
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