South Africa, which is set to produce the smallest maize crop since 2008 this year, may miss a target to import enough maize this season to meet consumers’ needs, the biggest agricultural lobby group said.
“It is still unclear whether we will be able to see the forecast 1.1 million tonnes by the end of the season,” that terminates in April, Wandile Sihlobo, head economist at Agricultural Business Chamber, said by phone on Tuesday.
An increase in the pace of imports and supplies from the nation’s own harvest, which is reaped from May to August, “will keep things cushioned,” he said.
The country may need to import 3.8 million metric tonnes of maize this year, of which 1.1 million tonnes will be of the white consumer type, according to Grain SA, the largest lobby for grain and oilseed farmers.
The imports are required to meet local consumption needs after rainfall last year declined to the least since records started in 1904, damaging crops and raising prices in the continent’s biggest producer.
Outside of southern Africa, only Mexico is a major producer of white maize, and it doesn’t have a lot to export, according to Oxfam. South African farmers may produce 7.16 million tonnes of both white (human consumption) and yellow (animal feed) maize this year, about 28% less than last year’s harvest, according to the nation’s Crop Estimates Committee.
South African ports have received 78 827 tonnes of white maize from the US and Mexico since the marketing season started in May, data on the website of the nation’s Grain Information Service showed.
The country became a net importer of the grain for the first time since 2008 in the season that ended in April, bringing in 1.96 million tonnes of both white and yellow maize, the most since 1993, because of the drought.
Imports included 1.86 million tonnes of the yellow type, the most since at least 2004, and 96 932 tonnes of the white variety, the grain service said. Argentina was the biggest source of yellow maize at 1.12 million tonnes, while for white, Mexico was the largest supplier at 51 040 tonnes.
“In the event that we don’t get what is required, nobody really knows what will happen, but I imagine there will be some adjustments within the consumption levels,” Sihlobo said.