Focus on South Africa

by Chris Lyddon
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South Africa
South Africa’s grains production is set to recover due to much better weather, but a long-term trend away from wheat continues, leaving the milling industry dependent on imports. For farmers, corn and oilseeds (helped by investment in processing capacity) are more financially attractive crops.

According to the International Grains Council (IGC), South Africa’s total grains production in 2016-17 will be 14.9 million tonnes, up from 10.1 million the year before. Production of wheat is forecast at 1.9 million tonnes, up from 1.4 million the previous year.

The IGC put corn production at 12.5 million tonnes, up from 8.2 million. The country is also forecast to produce an unchanged 100,000 tonnes of sorghum.

South Africa is expected to import a total of 4.1 million tonnes of grain in 2016-17, down from 5.1 million the year before. Exports are forecast at a total 1 million tonnes, up from 900,000.

Wheat imports are put at 1.9 million tonnes this year, down from 2.3 million the year before. South Africa is expected to export 900,000 tonnes of maize this year, compared with 700,000 last year.

South Africa’s imports of rice in 2016-17 are projected at an unchanged 900,000 tonnes.

The IGC also explained the rise in production.

“Helped by widespread rains, conditions in South Africa are much improved compared to the past two seasons,” the IGC said.

The IGC identified a potential problem for producers of some crops.

“The presence of fall armyworm, an invasive airborne pest with a wide potential host range, including maize, sorghum and rice, was recently confirmed in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” it said. “As 85% of South Africa’s commercial corn crop is planted with genetically modified varieties, engineered for insect resistance, the potential for damage there might be more limited than in neighboring countries.”

Farmers in southern Africa, including South Africa, have called for action.

“The armyworm is known to have a negative impact on agriculture, food security and trade, making Sub-Saharan Africa more vulnerable due to its high dependence on agriculture,” said Dr. Theo de Jager, president of SACAU, the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions. Jager made the comments following a meeting of interested organizations in Harare, Zimbabwe, in February.

Although genetically modified corn is widely grown in South Africa, differing regulations have meant problems in trade with the United States until the problem was solved late last year.

“On Dec. 5, 2016, the registrar of the GMO Act informed stakeholders that all corn genetically engineered (GE) events that caused asynchrony with the United States were approved by the Executive Council and the registrar invited applications for permits from importers,” the attaché reported in February. “Due to asynchronous approvals, the United States was not allowed to export GE corn to be used for food and feed to South Africa. Imported grain from the United States can now make a difference in the food security status in southern Africa, which experienced the worst drought in history last year.”