PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — South Africa is forecast to maintain its status as a net exporter of corn in the 2023-24 marketing year even though production is expected to be 7% lower than the 2022-23 crop, which was the second largest on record, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture.

The FAS projects 2023-24 corn production at 15.8 million tonnes, down from 17.1 million tonnes last year, but it still will be considered a bumper crop. Five of South Africa’s largest corn crops have been harvested in the past seven years.

Corn exports are forecast to decline by 25% to 3 million tonnes, but that total would still be the fourth largest on record, the report said.

From a demand standpoint, the FAS noted that South Africa is facing the worst outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza since 2017 with around 7.5 million chickens being culled since May to contain the outbreak, which extends across seven provinces.

“Due to the extent of the outbreak and the number of birds affected, (FAS) estimates that the local demand for corn as animal feed could drop by approximately 6% in 2022-23,” it said.

Corn planted area is projected to remain steady in 2023-24 at 2.9 million hectares. Downward pressure on local corn prices will limit the expansion of corn plantings, the FAS said, adding that it foresees a positive trend in soybean plantings this season to a record 1.2 million tonnes. In 2022-23, farmers planted soybeans on 1.1 million hectares, an upsurge of 24% from the previous year.