File image: Reuters

Pretoria - South African maize stocks for the 2013/14 marketing season are tight and the country may end up importing the grain if it gets more export orders, the chief executive of farmers' group Grain SA said on Thursday.

Jannie de Villiers said with only five months into the May 2013-April 2014 marketing season, South Africa had exported most of the surplus maize and more demand could create a deficit.

“We have exported the maximum that we can,” de Villiers told Reuters in an interview.

“Both white maize and yellow maize is at a break even point. What we expect to consume and what is exported is equal to the crop estimate in total.”

The government last month said South Africa will harvest 11.513 million tonnes of maize this year.

It will give its final estimate of the crop later on Thursday but the market expects the figure to remain unchanged.

Grain SA figures show that out of the 1.5 million tonnes of the surplus white and yellow maize available for exports, nearly 1.4 million tonnes has already been sold.

Most of the maize has gone to overseas markets such as Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and South Korea.

South Africa's grain trade is market driven and players face few government restrictions, enabling them to export even if it creates a deficit situation in the regional breadbasket.

De Villiers said demand was still coming in, especially from African countries.

“We are not aware of any ships coming to take more maize out of the country,” he said.

“But in a free market there is no limitation. It could happen that Japan can buy more yellow maize and then we will have to start importing. That will be very expensive.”

Last year South Africa also ended up importing maize after export orders exceeded the surplus available. - Reuters