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South Africa: South Africa Agriculture Profile



Early indications point to a small reduction in 2015 maize plantings

Planting of the 2015 summer cereal crops, to be harvested next May, is expected to be completed in early January. Preliminary indications point to a small reduction compared to last year in the area planted to maize. The expected decline is largely a result of lower white maize prices, as farmers opt to switch to additional profitable crops.
Rains in October were generally poor, leading to some early seasonal dryness. However, above-normal precipitation in November and during the start of December has improved vegetation conditions, benefiting crop establishment. Although it is still early in the season, preliminary expectations still indicate an above-average maize crop in 2015.

Bumper maize crop estimated in 2014

Accumulation (commercial and non-commercial) maize production in 2014 is estimated at 14.9 million tonnes, about 20 % above both the previous year’s reduced level and the average of the previous five years. The increase is largely attributed to higher yields, particularly for white maize, following the drought-affected harvest in 2013. White maize from the commercial sector increased by 37 %, while only a small increase was estimated for yellow maize. Sorghum production is estimated to be up by a substantial 74 % to 255 700 tonnes, following a rise in yields and a larger planted area.
Harvesting of the 2014 winter wheat crop is nearing completion. Continuing the in general decreasing trend and in response to lower prices and poor soil moisture at planting time (May and June 2014), the area sown to wheat declined by 6 % to approximately 477 000 hectares. However, the reduced plantings is estimated to be half offset by higher yields and the wheat output is presently estimated at about 1.79 million tonnes, only 4 % below last year’s average harvest.

Lower white maize exports to Southern Africa

Approximately 1.67 million tonnes of maize have been exported between May and the start of December, a similar volume compared to the corresponding period last year. About 80 % of this volume is accounted for by yellow maize, mostly shipped to Asia. The total volume of white maize exports, mainly to nations in the subregion, is below its levels of last year, reflecting larger national 2014 harvests in Southern Africa and as a result reduced import needs, particularly in Zimbabwe. Total exports are expected to reach about 2 million tonnes in the 2014/15 marketing time(May/April).

Maize prices remain lower than last, but increased in completed months

In October and November, under pressure from higher international quotations and a weaker exchange rate, maize prices increased by about 15 % compared to September’s levels. However, increased maize availabilities in 2014/15, following the tighter supply situation of 2013/14, exerted strong downward pressure on prices before in the year, helping to maintain lower year-on-year levels. In November 2014, yellow and white maize prices were about 16 and 20 %, respectively, below their year-before levels.