Tshepiso Mokhema

South Africa was close to exporting yellow maize to China, Grain SA chief executive Jannie de Villiers said last week.

Talks between the governments were in the final stages, De Villiers said in an interview. His association was liaising with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The government “is in full support of it”, he said.

“They have gone through the whole process of doing pest risk analysis and submitted all the paper work to the Chinese so they can approve our maize,” he said.

South African yellow maize exports had more than doubled to 1.2 million tons in the season ended April from a year earlier, the crop estimates committee said in April. Shipments almost quadrupled to a 14-year high in the 2011 season after traders found new markets from Japan to Spain for a surplus that followed a bumper crop.

The committee said farmers might produce a combined 13.9 million tons of white and yellow maize this season, the biggest harvest since 1981, when 14.1 million tons of the two varieties were produced.

“Things have already been concluded, we are just waiting for the political signing on this agreement and then we will be able to sell to China,” De Villiers said.

Makenosi Maroo, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said technical bilateral negotiations had been concluded. “The final formalities and signing at the appropriate political level are still required,” she said yesterday.

De Villiers said the sooner the deal was approved the better it would be as this would encourage farmers to continue producing surpluses, “which will also be good for local consumers”. – Bloomberg