Less rainfall and warmer temperatures are to blame for a significant decrease this year in the area planted to maize. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – Less rainfall and warmer temperatures are to blame for a significant decrease this year in the area planted to maize, a staple food for millions of poor South Africans. 

In its preliminary area planted estimate for 2018/2019 summer field crops released yesterday, the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), said white maize was planted on 1.257 million hectares in 2019, down 0.88 percent from the 1.268 million hectares planted in 2018.

Yellow maize on the other hand was down 3.70 percent to 1.01 million hectares from the 1.05 million hectares planted in the previous season.

The total estimated area planted to maize this year was 2.269 million hectares, which is 2.15 percent less than the 2.319 million hectares planted last season. According to the figure released in October, the intention was to plant 2.4 million hectares this year. 

“Less than favourable rainfall and warm temperatures in the western producing areas over the past few weeks prevented producers from planting their intended area with summer crops, especially in the Free State and North West provinces,” the CEC stated.

AgriSA deputy executive director Christo van der Rheede also attributed the decrease in the area planted to maize this year to erratic weather patterns. However, Van der Rheede said not all was lost. “We are in a fortunate position, because we still have about 3 million tons of maize in storage as a result of the bumper crop from 2017/2018.” He said the maize surplus would be able to sustain the country but warned: “If the harvest is less for this year, there might be a possibility of having to import white maize into the country – and at a cost.”

Other summer crop estimates included sunflower seed planted to an estimated 444 000 hectares, which is 26.18 percent or 157 500 hectares less than the 601 500 hectares previously.

It was estimated that 73 hectares had been planted to soya beans and this represented a decrease of 5.54 percent or 43 600 hectares compared to the 787 200 hectares planted in 2018.

The area estimate for groundnuts, sorghum and dry beans was 19 200, 46 000, and 56 000 hectares, respectively.

BUSINESS REPORT