SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa issued permits to allow total imports of 1.3-million metric tonnes of genetically modified (GM) maize from the US since allowing entry of the grain for the first time in December after the worst drought since records began in 1904.

There had been 15 permits issued for GM maize, said Makenosi Maroo, a Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesperson, said on Wednesday.

She did not say whether the permits were for white or yellow maize.

SA became a net importer of maize for the first time since 2008 in the marketing season that ended in April, after the drought slashed local harvests.

Approval was given for the entry of both white and yellow GM corn from the US, the South African Cereals and Oilseeds Trade Association said in December.

While SA grows its own GM corn to date it had not allowed modified grain from the US to be imported as food.

Local maize farmers opposed the new imports because they were likely to push prices lower, Grain SA said at the time.

So far none of the maize had landed in South African ports, Hampie Lourens, the MD of South African Bulk Terminals, which handles grain imports at the port of Durban, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

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SA has imported 641,235 tonnes of the country’s staple, white maize in the season that began May 1, mostly from Mexico, according to data from the South African Grain Information Service.

Yellow maize imports in the period have totaled 1.2-million tonnes, much of it from Argentina.

January 26, 2017;