WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — A few years after extreme drought forced South Africa to import 2.2 million tonnes of corn the country is set to return to being a net exporter of the grain in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 marketing years, according to a July 31 Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the report, the USDA indicated that South Africa’s commercial corn crop for the 2016-17 marketing year is forecast at a historically high level of 16 million tonnes, which, if realized, would be up 105% from 2015-16. The 2017-18 corn crop, meanwhile, is forecast at 11.3 million tonnes.

“A record high commercial white corn crop of 9.5 million tonnes is expected (in 2016-17), almost three times more than in the previous marketing year,” the USDA noted in the report. “The commercial yellow corn crop is estimated at 6.5 million tonnes, 48% higher than the previous season.”

The USDA said it expects South Africa will export about 2.5 million tonnes and 2 million tonnes of corn, respectively, in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 marketing years.

“A weak global market for white corn limits South Africa’s export opportunities, which will leave a relatively large carry-over stock for the next marketing year,” the agency noted.

According to the USDA, the commercial demand for corn for food has increased an average of 2% per year the past 20 years, while the commercial demand for feed corn increased an average of 3% per year. The agency said it expects the marginal increases in demand for corn to continue in the 2017-18 marketing year.

“South Africa’s economic growth is expected to continue to be sluggish in the next few years, due to structural and policy constraints, which will limit the increase in the demand for animal protein and hence animal feed,” the USDA said. “As a result, the demand for corn feed is expected to increase marginally to 5.3 million tonnes. The human demand for corn, the staple food for many South Africans, especially for the lower to middle income group, is expected to grow in correlation with population growth to 5.1 million tonnes.”