PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — After producing its second largest corn crop in history in 2019-20, South Africa is forecast to see production decline by 21% to 12.6 million tonnes this marketing year, according to a July 17 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA explained that the recent bumper crop has suppressed local corn prices and is expected to continue doing so past the 2020-21 planting season.

“(It) will put downward pressure on the area to be planted with corn later in 2020,” the USDA said.

As a result, the USDA forecasts that around 2.3 million commercial hectares of corn will be planted, which is 11% fewer than were planted in 2019-20.

However, South Africa should remain a net exporter of corn in 2020-21 as stock levels will still be relatively high, according to the USDA. The country is estimated to export 2.5 million tonnes in 2019-20 and is forecast to ship 600,000 tonnes this year.

“Much of the white corn exports in 2019-20 will be destined to South Africa’s neighboring countries, especially Zimbabwe,” the USDA said. “Zimbabwe needs at least 1 million tonnes of corn to meet local demand after drought conditions impacted negatively on crop yields.”

The report said corn consumption in South Africa increased, on average, by about 2% per year over the past 10 years, mainly driven by population and economic growth. However, the South Africa economy has been contracting over the past 12 months.

“It is still too early to predict the precise impact of COVID-19 on the South African economy in the second and third quarters of 2020, but economists estimate that the economy could shrink by as much as 10%,” the USDA said.