Maize moun­tain crops farm prof­its

Sunday Times - - BUSINESS TIMES - RAY NDLOVU

MAIZE prices in South Africa have fallen by as much as 60% fol­low­ing a sur­plus maize crop that is es­ti­mated at 15.63 mil­lion tons this sea­son — the largest har­vest in nearly three decades.

This is bad news for farm­ers, who are now faced with low maize prices so soon af­ter the dev­as­ta­tion ex­pe­ri­enced from an El Niño-in­duced drought last sea­son.

On Thurs­day, white maize prices were trad­ing at R1 763 per ton and yel­low maize prices were R1 893 per ton, ac­cord­ing to data from the Agri­cul­tural Busi­ness Cham­ber.

Wandile Sihlobo, head of the eco­nomic and agribusi­ness in­tel­li­gence unit at the Agri­cul­tural Busi­ness Cham­ber, said the fall in maize prices would be a huge re­lief for cash-strapped con­sumers, but a blow to farm­ers.

“The prices are down by 60% com­pared to last year and farm­ers are squeezed and find­ing it hard to ad­just to the low prices. The av­er­age farmer spends about R2 000 to R2 200 on in­puts.

“So many might have difficulty re­cov­er­ing, es­pe­cially com­ing MAIZE DAZE: Too lit­tle last sea­son, too much this year from a drought, amid in­di­ca­tions that for the rest of this year the maize prices will re­main low,” Sihlobo said.

Bumper har­vests ex­pe­ri­enced across the rest of South­ern Africa, in Malawi, Zam­bia and Zim­babwe, Sihlobo said, would re­sult in South Africa’s maize sur­plus find­ing few mar­kets from its tra­di­tional buy­ers in the re­gion.

Last year South Africa pro­duced 7.8 mil­lion tons.

“In fact Zam­bia’s maize crop is mostly pre­ferred ahead of South Africa’s maize, be­cause of GMO [ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms] con­cerns with our crop.

“Even though Kenya, Bu­rundi and Tan­za­nia are suf­fer­ing in terms of low maize stocks, they are not buying maize from South Africa. They are buying from Mex­ico and Ukraine,” Sihlobo said.

Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries Min­is­ter Sen­zeni Zok­wana said in April that the govern­ment was con­sid­er­ing set­ting up a strate­gic grain re­serve to sup­ple­ment har­vests dur­ing lean years.

Pic­ture: BAFANA MAHLANGU

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