South Africa will launch an investigation into its grain import tariff structure, officials and producer body Grain South Africa said.

In recent months, Grain SA has complained that plunging maize prices, which have slumped from over 1000 rand ($160.4) a ton in November to under 600 a ton, are threatening to throw farmers out of business and demanded officials raise import tariffs.

A statement released by Grain SA did not say whether this would be the purpose of the probe and its officials could not be reached for comment. Farmers say they cannot compete with subsidized crops from the United States and European Union.

But Nomonde Maimela, chief commissioner of the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC), said a task team made up of Grain SA, ITAC and the agriculture department would look at all problems facing the entire sector.

“We acknowledge the fact that it is not a normal problem that they have. It’s a complex problem,” said Maimela, whose institution will advise the government on how to assist farmers.

“ITAC and Grain SA are happy to report that the discussions were fruitful and productive,” Grain SA said in a statement following a meeting between the various parties last week. (Reuters)