SA's Maize Harvest

South African farmers are optimistic that the nation will be harvesting its highest maize crop in 40 years. According to the local weather services, the rainfall recorded in January and February 2017 was over double the average.

Estimates show that South Africa will be harvesting 14.54 million tonnes of maize this year. SA’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) says the surplus is almost at a 50% rating.

This season, South Africa’s exports to regional markets within the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) are expected to reach 630,000 tons.

For imports, Grain SA suggests that while white maize may yield 70,000 tons, the yellow maize imports might reach 700,000 tons. The anticipated boost this farming season will cut down the cost of food in the market.

Farmers are looking up to a great harvest season especially after the 2016 drought. The persistent drought which was caused by the El Niño climate phenomenon has not only affected the production of maize, but also other crops.

Aside from the bountiful rains this year, SA farmers also expanded their planting areas. Both conditions have jointly made the good news for the 2017 SA’s maize harvest season. The expansion of the planting areas was thanks to the intervention of National Disaster Management Centre which has invested as much as R212 million into the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for farmers in November 2016.

According to Wandile Sihlobo Agricultural Economist confirms that this year’s harvest will be amazing.

“Generally food will be one of the key issues that will keep our inflation down for quite some time this year,” 

“I look at the Reserve Bank numbers, they are looking at about 7.7% this year. We are looking at 7.4%, and they think that next year it could come down to any factor between 5 and 6 percent. So on a food perspective I think this is gonna be a good year…”

“We are drowning in Maize because as a country we only need about 10.5 million tonnes of maize for our annual consumption.”

He says that SA’s maize harvest this year will give about 15.6 million tonnes of maize. Also, there will be a million tonnes from last year adding up to this year’s estimates up to about 16 million. This means that the country is seeing over 101% yield compared to what was obtained in 2016.

” A large portion of that – about 9 million tonnes – is white maize, with the remainder being yellow maize”

“To send this to the export markets, (it) is easier to export yellow maize because everybody needs it for their feeding market, but when it comes to white maize, it is only consumed by African countries as well as Mexico…”

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also indicated that the Free State, Mpumalanga, and North West provinces which are the main areas that return high maize harvest are expected to turn in 83% of the yield in 2017.

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With this anticipated harvest, it is expected that the price of the product in the market will drop. South Africa is the only country in the sub-Sahara to plant genetically modified maize.

Many countries for health reasons, do not grow genetically modified grains. However, GMOs are export attractions.

Kenya for instance battles with a shortage of maize but insists on not accept genetically modified grain. Countries like Burundi and Tanzania share a similar sentiment.

SA’s Maize Harvest Facts

Maize farming in South Africa has sustained for a very long time as the crop is seen as one of the most important in the country.

Looking at a 12-month period that ended on 30 June 2016, the income from maize harvest was put at R24,346 million. This is 14,6% less than the R28,512 million that was recorded in the previous 12 months.

In terms of agricultural product exports, maize which recorded R3,467 million was one of the most important alongside others such as citrus fruit (R12,565 million), wine (R8,036 million), grapes (R6,584 million), apples, as well as pears and quinces (R6,255 million). This was still in the 12 months before the end of June 2016. Also, in terms o the value of export, maize is at the forefront.

Looking at the harvested maize in the country, while 43% white maize, the remaining 57% is yellow maize as at 2016. While the white serves mainly for the consumption of humans,  the yellow is used for animal feeds.

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