South Africa’s dry bean production expected to decline by 13% prompting rise in imports, reduction in exports

SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s production and imports of dry beans have been declining over the past decade in correlation with a decrease in consumption.

According to a recent report by USDA, South Africa’s dry bean production is relatively small, and averaged around 65,000 tons over the past five years, representing less than one percent of the country’s total summer field crop production.

In the 2021 marketing year (MY), South Africa planted 47,390 hectares of dry beans, down six percent from the previous season.

The Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) estimates that South Africa will realize a dry bean crop of 56,577 tons in 2021, down 13 percent from the previous marketing year.

This downward trend in production has been evident over the past two decades. A major reason for the decline is that yield levels have failed to increase at the same positive rate as yield levels of corn and oilseeds, resulting in less competitive gross margins.

The report notes that, unless technology changes occur that could improve dry bean productivity, producers will continue to switch to more profitable crops, and the decreasing trend in hectares planted with dry beans in South Africa will continue.

The three main types of dry beans produced in the country include: the Red Speckled Kidney beans, Small White beans and Large White Kidney beans.

South Africa’s per capita dry bean consumption is about 1kg per year


Small White beans represent the largest market share and are mainly used for canning purposes. They are produced under contract and its share in total dry bean production has increased over the past five years.

Red Speckled Kidney beans represents the second largest market share and are mainly package for retail sales.

Large White Kidney beans represent the smallest market share and are used for both retail and canning purposes.

Other locally produced bean types such as the Haricot beans have a very limited domestic market.

Dry beans consumption stagnates

Consumption rate of the grain in the country has been stabilizing at around 60,000 tons per year, declining by more than 50 percent since 2010.

This means that South Africa’s per capita dry bean consumption is about one kilogram per year.

Traditionally, South Africa was never a substantial dry bean consumer as in other parts of the world, with local consumers preferring chicken (40kg/person/year) and corn meal (96kg/person/year) as staple food.

The decline in consumption is mainly due to consumer preferences and the price competitiveness of dry bean products. However, they will always be an important niche market with many nutritional benefits.

Dry beans imports to increase to meet local demand

With the decline in consumption, South Africa’s imports of dry beans have been declining over the past decade registering a 50 percent drop since 2010.

On the other hand, South Africa’s dry bean exports have more than doubled since 2010. However, dry bean exports are expected to decrease by 20 percent to 29,000 tons in the 2021 MY, due to a 13 percent drop in production.

Dry bean imports for the 2021 are likewise expected to increase by six percent to about 32,000 tons from Brazil, followed by China, Ethiopia, Malawi and Canada.

As already mentioned, South Africa’s exports of dry beans have been growing over the past several years to reach 36,418 tons in the 2020 MY.

The country’s exports of dry beans are mainly destined to its neighbouring countries including, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana and Mozambique. South Africa, however, also exports dry beans to countries in Asia like India, Vietnam, Taiwan and China.

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