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Farmers look forward to a bumper harvest

Commodities
Cape Town - South Africa is expected to reap a bumper crop in the next harvesting season.

Agricultural experts last week said the country's combine harvester sales continued to show strong growth after a devastating drought that curtailed harvesting in the past few seasons.

Wandile Sihlobo, head of economic and agribusiness intelligence at Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), said the expected bounce back in crop harvesting was pinned to the number of agricultural machinery sales data.

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AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz, file

“Recent agricultural machinery sales data showed that in March 2017, combine harvester sales were up by 21 percent from the previous month and 64 percent from the corresponding period last year; with 23 units sold.”

Sihlobo said the sales had been on the upward trend since the beginning of the year with March showing strongest growth. He said the country had seen more rains this summer as compared to 2015.

“Weather forecasts show a possibility of widespread showers across the country within the next two weeks. This will benefit the areas that planted late, particularly North West province.

"Moreover, dam levels could also see improvement and benefit the irrigation areas over the coming months,” he said. The growth in combine harvester sales mirrors the positive prospects of summer crops production.”

Read also: Maize crops set to recover this year

According to the information by the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), the overall summer crop production was estimated at 16.7 million tons, which is a 78 percent annual increase.

The CEC said the most notable increase was in maize and soybeans.

It said total maize production for the season could be 14.3 million tons - the second biggest crop on record after 1980/81 season, while soybeans would record the biggest haul on record at 1.2 million tons.

Sihlobo said tractor sales declined 24 percent in March from the previous month’s figures with 515 units sold.

“With that said, this is 19 percent higher than the corresponding period last year, ahead of the winter crop planting season, which is set to commence over the next few weeks,” said Sihlobo.

But he warned that political uncertainty in the country could have a negative effect on the sector.

“The optimism in the agricultural machinery market could be short-lived, as the weakening rand against the US dollar could increase costs of the equipment. In addition, escalating farm debt could also reduce some farmers’ ability to further invest in machinery.

"In 2015 the total real farm debt was at R142 billion, which is a record level in a database starting from 1980,” he said.

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