Recently, the South African press reported on the possible bankruptcy faced by maize farmers. The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released a new report titled “The dirty politics of the global grain trade – GM maize farmers face ruin in SA” which provides an analysis of why South Africa’s record 13 million ton harvest of maize, at least half of which is GM, has threatened financial ruin for up to 30% of its maize farmers.

The paper addresses the following issues: the political economy of maize in South Africa; new GM markets for South Africa; the real beneficiaries of the maize mountains; and regulatory issues, including the extent to which South Africa’s GMO permit system contributes towards speculation in the GM maize trade and the price of food. The paper can be found on the website of the ACB at South Africa’s maize farmers recorded a bumper harvest in 2010, yet now they face ruin.

The price of maize has fallen precipitously in the last 12 months owing to a crisis of over-production of both GM and non-GM maize. A mass exodus from the maize sector is anticipated, with as many as 30% of farmers facing potential liquidation. During July 2010, the Executive Council: GMO Act (EC) granted export permits allowing 625,000 tons of GM maize to be exported to various countries in Africa and Asia. Of this, 600,000 tons were bound for Taiwan and South Korea. A further 35,000 MT of GM soybeans were also exported to various countries.

Thus, for 2010, South Africa exported over 1 million tons of GMOs, of which GM maize accounted for a staggering 956,000 MT. The record GM exports from South Africa is attributed a bumper harvest, officially the highest since 1982. Far from contributing to greater food security in the country, the almost dogmatic focus on production has led to a precipitous fall in local maize prices.

Consequently, the Solidarity Research Institute group in South Africa has warned that an oncoming financial crisis in the South African agricultural sector could drive 30% of maize farmers away from the sector. For each additional unit of value added to total GDP, agriculture creates twice as much employment as the rest of the economy. The knock on affects of the crisis on rural South African communities could be catastrophic.

Read here.