SA preparing for best maize harvest in 36 years

South African grain store facilities will have to prepare for a busy year after the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) set the commercial maize harvest on 14.324 million tons – an increase of 84% from last year.

According to Agbiz agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo, the harvest will be the second highest put out by South African farmers since the record harvest of 14.66 million tons in 1980/’81.

The new estimate is almost 3% higher than the previous forecast of 13.9 million tons.

Sihlobo says the bumper harvest means South Africa will return to its net exporting status in the 2017/’18 marketing year. The country still has to import maize in the 2017/’16 marketing year, due to poor harvests in southern Africa after consecutive years of drought.

According to Johann Strauss, a researcher at BVG Commodities, an increase of more than 2% in the following crop estimate means the harvest might exceed the volumes for the 1981/’82 season. However, he says it is highly unlikely, since younger maize crops are currently struggling from moisture shortages. This might lead to a harvest smaller than the current estimate.

According to the CEC the area planted remains unchanged at 2.629 million ha, with the increase attributed to an increase in the expected yield average of 5.45t/ha.

The harvest is expected to consist of 59.43%, or 8513 million tons of white maize and 40.53 %, or 5.810 million tons of yellow maize.

Other summer crops

The sunflower crop estimate is about 3.51% smaller than the previous forecast, and currently stands on 896 060 tons, or 18.7% higher than the previous season.

The production forecast for soybeans is 1.162 million tons, almost 9% more than the previous forecast and 56.66% more than the 2016 harvest of 742 00 tons.

The CEC will release its third production forecast for summer field crops for 2017 on 25 April.

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