Johannesburg - South Africa approved imports of
genetically modified corn from the US for the first time after its worst
drought since records began 104 years ago cut local output.
The nation will allow both white and yellow GM corn from
the US to be brought in, Dirk Kok, a spokesman for the secretariat of the
Pretoria-based South African Cereals and Oilseeds and Trade Association, said
in an interview on Monday. A call to the government’s Department of
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries outside of normal office hours wasn’t
“The door is open to imports from the US,” said Kok,
whose organization represents grain and oilseed traders. Local “prices will
come down,” he said.
The country became a net importer of corn in the season
that ended in April for the first time since 2008 this year after the drought
slashed the total harvest by about a quarter to 7.97 million tons, the least in
a decade. While rains in the current season are improving prospects for the
next crop, concerns about supply of the white variety, used to make a local
staple porridge known as pap, persist because this type is only widely produced
in southern Africa and Mexico.
Read also: Quality of white corn raises concern in SA
White corn surged to a record R5 296 ($385) a metric ton
in January and has fallen 27 percent since. The yellow type, used for animal
feed, reached a high of R3 915 rand a ton in June and has dropped 20 percent.
The decision “is critical,” Wandile Sihlobo, the head of
economic and agribusiness intelligence at the Agricultural Business Chamber,
said by phone from Pretoria, the capital. “We are going to see a stronger
correlation between the yellow-maize price and the US price. The reaction of
the South African farmers is going to be interesting.” Maize is another term
By the end of April, South Africa may import 300 000 tons
of GM white corn from the US and 500 000 tons of yellow corn, he said.
South Africa imported 555 241 tons of white corn between
May 1 and November 25, or 65 percent of the forecast amount for the season
ending April 30, according to the Agricultural Business Chamber. Almost all of
that came from Mexico.
“This will allow US corn, both white and yellow, to ship
into South Africa fairly easily,” Cary Sifferath, senior director of the
Washington-based US Grains Council, said by phone. “In the short term, as they
wait for harvest in late April to May, there could be some need for some
additional white-corn imports.”