PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — An expected fourth bumper crop of corn in South Africa for 2022-23 will limit the expansion of planted area in the upcoming crop year, according to a report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Still, South Africa is expected to remain a net exporter of corn with 2.3 million tonnes of exports in 2023-24.

Corn production in 2023-24 is estimated at 15.8 million tonnes on 2.9 million hectares, slightly lower than the 16.2 million tonnes for 2022-23.

A positive trend in soybean plantings will continue in 2023-24, also impacting the possible expansion in corn area, the USDA said.

A 6% drop in wheat area to 530,000 hectares is expected in 2023-24. Lat year, production was expanded by 8% due to the war in Ukraine. An increase in 2023-24 is unlikely, the USDA said, because local wheat prices fell by more than 20% from historic highs.

“In addition, with South Africa’s continuous power outages, an expansion in wheat plantings under irrigation is unlikely,” the USDA said.

Wheat production is estimated at 2 million tonnes, assuming a five-year average yield.

Rolling blackouts have reached unprecedented levels and are impacting business decisions, the USDA said. Many producers and processors have focused investments on alternative energy sources as a critical farming input, it said.

Consumers are facing high levels of food inflation due to an upsurge in the cost of production.