Under normal conditions, South Africa is a net exporter of corn, shipping approximately 1 million tonnes each year.
WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — South Africa’s government announced it is eliminating import restrictions on some biotech corn products, likely opening it for additional imports of U.S. corn, according to the U.S. Grains Council (USGC).

The list of products, or events as they are described by the scientific community, announced by South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) that were previously ineligible for import includes several grown by U.S. corn producers either in single-event varieties or stacked varieties. 

They include:
  • MON 87460 x NK603
  • 3272 x Bt11 x MIR604 x GA21
  • TC1507 x 59122 x MON810 x MIR604 x NK603
  • TC1507 x 59122 x MON810 x NK603
  • TC1507 x MIR604 x NK603
  • TC1507 x MON810 x MIR162 x NK603
  • MON87460 maize event

These events all have been found safe by other global regulators, including in the U.S., but had faced process delays in South Africa.

The effort to achieve their approval ramped up late last year after a USGC mission to South Africa uncovered a significant near-term opening for U.S. feed grain imports following a severe drought, the council said.

Under normal conditions, South Africa is a net exporter of corn, shipping approximately 1 million tonnes (39.4 million bushels) each year. However, weather conditions resulting from El Niño caused a short crop and necessitated imports of both yellow and white corn. According to the USGC, white corn is a staple in the diets of South Africans and those in neighboring countries to whom they export in most years.

Unfortunately, lagging biotech approvals in South Africa have long hindered trade with the U.S., leading South Africa to typically source yellow corn from Argentina and white corn from Mexico.

The USGC noted that some U.S. white corn not produced with biotechnology was shipped to South Africa early in 2016, the majority of imports came from Mexico, which in turn required Mexico to import more yellow corn from the United States to cover the white maize disappearance.

USGC has been working to help ease trade roadblocks and promote U.S. feed grains in South Africa since discovering the depth of the issue.

Members first met with South African industry and government officials on this topic as part of an officers’ mission in December 2015. USGC members, staff and consultants also participated in an industry and government roundtable on the issue, presenting on white corn global supply and demand issues as well as solutions to enable U.S. corn shipments. Following that meeting, USGC representatives continued working with industry partners and DAFF toward a suitable resolution of this trade issue.

The U.S. is now in a better position to tap into an estimated market potential of approximately 400,000 tonnes (15.7 million bushels) of yellow maize and 300,000 tonnes (11.8 million bushels) of white maize anticipated through April 2017, the USGC said.