SA re­gains sta­tus as ex­porter of maize

Record har­vest fore­cast

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS NEWS - Sandile Mchunu

SOUTH Africa is set to re­gain its sta­tus as a net ex­porter of maize, af­ter the drought of the past two years forced the coun­try to im­port the com­mod­ity.

Rains ex­pe­ri­enced last sum­mer have re­vived the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, and the crop es­ti­mate com­mit­tee (CEC) now predicts that the coun­try will har­vest a record crop of 15.63 mil­lion tons this year.

South Africa’s an­nual maize con­sump­tion is es­ti­mated to be around 10.5 mil­lion tons, leav­ing the coun­try with an es­ti­mate 5.13 mil­lion-ton sur­plus.

Wandile Sihlobo, a se­nior agri­cul­tural econ­o­mist at the Agri­cul­tural Busi­ness Cham­ber (Ag­biz), said yes­ter­day that 2015 and 2016 were dom­i­nated by drought, and South Africa be­came a net im­porter of maize dur­ing that pe­riod.

“How­ever, we seem to have re­gained our sta­tus as a net ex­porter of maize start­ing from May this year,” said Sihlobo.

South Africa was ex­pected to ex­port 2.2 mil­lion tons of maize dur­ing the year on the back of 15.63 mil­lion tons pre­dicted by the CEC, he added.

And the coun­try’s maize ex­ports are con­tin­u­ing to gain mo­men­tum. Sihlobo said South Africa ex­ported 112 574 tons of maize in the week end­ing June 30. About 60 per­cent of this was yel­low maize, with the rest white maize.

In the same week, Tai­wan be­came the big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary as it ac­counted for 60 per­cent of to­tal maize ex­ports. Tai­wan was fol­lowed by Kenya, which ac­counted for 32 per­cent of the share of weekly ex­ports.

South Africa’s to­tal 2017/18 maize ex­ports stand at 428 779 tons, which equals 19 per­cent of the sea­son ex­port fore­cast of 2.2 mil­lion tons.

South Africa is not the only coun­try that is ex­pected to reap an im­proved har­vest.

“Zim­babwe only man­aged to pro­duce 500 000 tons last year and now is ex­pected to pro­duce 1.8 mil­lion tons. Zam­bia will record 3.6 mil­lion tons and Malawi will see its har­vest im­prov­ing by 36 per­cent to 3.2 mil­lion tons,” said Sihlobo.

The ex­pected im­prove­ment was a re­sult of the im­proved rain­fall in the en­tire re­gion.

“How­ever, South Africa is not in the po­si­tion to ex­port to these neigh­bour­ing coun­tries be­cause they are ex­pect­ing to have a maize sur­plus as well.

“We could have been in a po­si­tion to ex­port 4 mil­lion tons, but the sub­dued de­mand is not ex­pected to make this pos­si­ble. We ex­pect to ex­port 2.2 mil­lion tons an­nu­ally,” added Sihlobo.

An­other fac­tor that makes South Africa’s maize less pop­u­lar in the re­gion is the fact that 80 per­cent of our maize is ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied.

“The neigh­bour­ing coun­tries seem not to pre­fer our ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied maize, which makes our prod­uct less in de­mand from the re­gion,” he said.

The coun­try had been forced to im­port maize af­ter two years of drought, but good rains have brought re­lief.

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