Johannesburg - South African industry
group Grain SA sees a 2017 maize surplus after last year's
drought-induced deficit and its surveys show farmers have
planted 2.4 million hectares this season, an 18 percent increase
over 2016, its chief executive said on Thursday.
"What I've learned from our surveys and discussions with the
farmers is that we will plant, or have planted because it's just
about done now, around 2.4 million hectares," Jannie de Villiers
told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"If we have planted those hectares and I look at the weather
forecast for the next month or two there is a big chance that we
will have more than enough for our own use," he said, when asked
if he expected a surplus this year.
A surplus could help to dampen food price inflation in South
Africa. Prices for white maize used for human
consumption doubled in 2015 but fell 24 percent in 2016.
It could also have implications for regional food security
as countries such as Malawi may still need to import. Malawi,
Zambia and Zimbabwe have been hit by an outbreak of armyworm, a
pest that devours maize and other crops.
De Villiers said it was too early to peg an estimate for the
size of the expected surplus.
South Africa's harvest of the staple maize last year was 7.5
million tonnes, 25 percent lower than the 9.95 million tonnes
in 2015 because of an El Nino-triggered drought. Domestic
consumption is about 10.5 million tonnes.
Read also: SA could export maize again
The Grain SA planting estimate is less than the 2.62 million
hectares the government's Crop Estimates Committee said in
November farmers intended to plant. Its first estimate for the
area planted is due on Jan 26.
The drought pushed some commercial farmers out of business
or forced them to sell their farms, De Villiers said.
"If I look at the market there are quite a few farms on the
market especially in the North West province. I assume with the
number of farms on the market there have been people who lost
their farms," he said.
In the longer run, he said demand for yellow maize - used in
South Africa primarily for animal feed - was seen increasing as
protein consumption gradually rises, a trend seen in other
emerging economies with growing middle classes.
Demand for white maize, the main source of calories for
South Africa's mostly black working class, would flatten.
"The white maize is stagnant, the people are moving away
from it if they can just afford a little bit of chicken or
something like that," De Villiers said.
"The growth in yellow will definitely be above population
growth," he said.