The low supply of maize currently being experienced in South Africa, has resulted in a short-term squeeze and volatility in the market.

Among other factors, this was the result of late plantings, according to Luan van der Walt, Grain SA economist. He told Farmer’s Weekly the situation was nevertheless expected to change as soon as harvesting was in full swing.

“According to the latest statistics from SAGIS [South African Grain Information Service], the supply level stood at 1,86 million tons at the end of March 2020. This is 45% lower than the same time last year, with 3,93 million tons available at the end of March 2019,” he said.

The maize harvest for 2020 is estimated to reach 8,87 million tons of white maize and 6,44 million tons of yellow maize. If these volumes were achieved, it would be the second largest maize harvest in South Africa’s history.

He said maize producers had already started harvesting in the eastern part of the summer grain production region. Although sporadic harvesting was taking place in the western part, large-scale harvesting was expected to start in the third week of June.

The harvesting of soya bean and sunflower was, however, well underway across the country. “Supplies of commodities such as oilseeds are currently relatively low, but are increasing rapidly as harvesting progresses,” Van der Walt said.

Current maize prices were in line with those achieved at the same time last year.

However, the exchange rate of the rand against major international currencies would be by far the most important factor in terms of maize prices realised in the coming months, with a strengthening of the rand expected to place pressure on local prices, he said.

Indications were that maize planting in the US would be above average this season, putting additional pressure on international price levels.

Farmer’s Weekly | Annelie Coleman |