As the annual canola harvest begins to wind down across various regions in South Africa, Southern Oil (SOILL) said it anticipated an impressive total yield of more than 220 000 tons of canola seed.
The modern oil extraction plant and edible oil refinery, situated in Swellendam in the Western Cape, said although this year's harvest was ongoing – having commenced in early October and set to conclude towards the end of this month – the predicted total yield was notably impressive.
Zander Spammer, agricultural resource manager at SOILL, last week said that in just four years, the harvest was expected to surge by more than 130 000 tons, rising from 94 317 million tons in 2019 to an anticipated 220 000 tons this year.
Spammer attributed this record-breaking yield to three key factors, including favourable weather, enhanced canola cultivars and improved farming practices.
In October, the Agriculture Department’s Crop Estimates Committee said the 2023/24 canola crop was up 3% from the previous month to a record 237 450 tons (up 13% year on year). It attributed the annual increase to increased plantings and expected better yields.
The Rapeseed Production Report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), published in August, forecast that South Africa would produce a record rapeseed (known locally as canola) crop of 220 000 metric tons in the marketing year 2023/24. It said rapeseed production in South Africa had grown seven-fold over the past 20 years, after it was first introduced in the late 1990s.
“Constant yield growth from new cultivars combined with firm crush demand because of escalating vegetable oil prices supported the expansion in rapeseed production. As a result, South Africa started exporting rapeseed, as local processing capacity is limited. Rapeseed exports should reach record levels in marketing year 2023/24.”
The USDA said that despite this growth over the past two decades, rapeseed production still contributed only a small percentage of South Africa’s total oilseed production. In 2022/23 it accounted for 6% of total oilseed production, while soybeans and sunflower seeds accounted for 73% and 20%, respectively.
The 2023 harvest comes from 120 198 hectares of canola planted across the provinces of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, but predominantly in the Southern Cape, Overberg and Swartland regions. These areas are ideal for canola cultivation due to their excellent soil quality, winter rainfall and warm, dry summers, allowing the early autumn planting of canola. The rains of the past year have also particularly favoured the growth of the crop.
SOILL said that while South Africa predominantly relied on domestically-produced canola oil, the country remained a net importer of all fats and oils.
“This means that South Africa does not produce sufficient product for its demand, and is reliant on imports. Local vegetable oil production has steadily increased, rising by 4.3% from 2021 to 2022, but imports grew by 12.0% during the same period. This while total consumption decreased slightly by -1.30% year on year, highlighting the pressure on consumer spending.”
It added that this reliance on major vegetable oil-producing countries left South Africa vulnerable to price volatility.
“Recent global events, such as the war in Ukraine, droughts in Spain and South America, the Turkish ban on olive oil exports, and production constraints in Malaysia, have all influenced local oil prices. These factors underscore the importance of supporting local produce.”
SOILL said it would continue to advocate for local farmers and locally-produced goods, with the aim of making South Africa self-reliant and less susceptible to the fluctuating prices of global oil, thereby promoting competitive pricing.
Last month, the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) said recent flooding had caused significant damage to infrastructure – vital for storing and transporting agricultural products to markets – within the southern regions of the Western Cape.
The agricultural organisation said this included damage to road networks, storage facilities and electricity infrastructure. Some of this was now being repaired as communities recovered from the floods.