SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa is set to regain its status as a net exporter of maize, after the drought of the past two years forced the country to import the commodity.

Rains experienced last summer have revived the agricultural sector, and the crop estimate committee (CEC) now predicts that the country will harvest a record crop of 15.63 million tons this year. 

South Africa’s annual maize consumption is estimated to be around 10.5 million tons, leaving the country with an estimate 5.13 million-ton surplus. 

Wandile Sihlobo, a senior agricultural economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), said yesterday that 2015 and 2016 were dominated by drought, and South Africa became a net importer of maize during that period.

“However, we seem to have regained our status as a net exporter of maize starting from May this year,” said Sihlobo.

South Africa was expected to export 2.2 million tons of maize during the year on the back of 15.63 million tons predicted by the CEC, he added.

And the country’s maize exports are continuing to gain momentum.

Sihlobo said South Africa exported 112574 tons of maize in the week ending June 30. About 60percent of this was yellow maize, with the rest white maize.

In the same week, Taiwan became the biggest beneficiary as it accounted for 60percent of total maize exports. Taiwan was followed by Kenya, which accounted for 32percent of the share of weekly exports.

South Africa’s total 2017/18 maize exports stand at 428779 tons, which equals 19percent of the season export forecast of 2.2 million tons.

South Africa is not the only country that is expected to reap an improved harvest.

“Zimbabwe only managed to produce 500000 tons last year and now is expected to produce 1.8 million tons. Zambia will record 3.6 million tons and Malawi will see its harvest improving by 36percent to 3.2 million tons,” said Sihlobo.

The expected improvement was a result of the improved rainfall in the entire region.

“However, South Africa is not in the position to export to these neighbouring countries because they are expecting to have a maize surplus as well.

“We could have been in a position to export 4 million tons, but the subdued demand is not expected to make this possible. We expect to export 2.2 million tons annually,” added Sihlobo.

Another factor that makes South Africa’s maize less popular in the region is the fact that 80percent of our maize is genetically modified.

“The neighbouring countries seem not to prefer our genetically modified maize, which makes our product less in demand from the region,” he said.