South Africa’s 2017/18 initial estimates for summer crop plantings show a 7% year-on-year decline to 3.7 million hectares. White maize, sunflower seed, groundnuts and sorghum plantings being a key reason for this overall downswing.

The downswing, according to Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz Head of Agribusiness Research, was also driven by the dry and warm weather conditions experienced in the western parts of South Africa over the past couple of weeks. The total maize plantings declined by 12% from, the 2016/17 production season to 2.3 million hectares. Sihlobo said that this is better than the market consensus forecast of 18% year-on-year decline in maize plantings to 2.15 million hectares.

He said while the estimate for total maize hectares shows a decline, it is mainly skewed towards white maize, which is set to drop by 22% from the 2016/17 season to 1.28 million hectares. “Meanwhile, yellow maize area could increase by 4% from the previous season to 1.02 million hectares,” added Sihlobo. He said a key driver behind this trend is mainly the variation in weather conditions.

“The western areas have been dry and warm, whereas the eastern regions experienced fairly favourable conditions. Soybeans plantings are estimated at 701 000 hectares, up by 22% from the previous season. This crop also benefited from a fair amount of rainfall in the eastern regions”.

Sunflower seed planting estimates, mainly produced in the western parts of South Africa, show a 12% year-on-year decline to 560 100 hectares. Sihlobo said this was not surprising, due to the North West and western parts of the Free State provinces having received very little rainfall in the last few weeks of 2017, while experiencing a drier start to 2018. These conditions led to delays in summer crop planting activity.

Looking ahead, said Sihlobo, there are fairly positive weather prospects. “The South African Weather Service highlights a possibility of above-normal rainfall between February and April 2018,” he added.

Recent data confirmed that the winter wheat crop would not be in good shape due to persistent dryness in the Western Cape and Free State provinces. The overall crop is estimated at 1.48 million tonnes, down by 23% year-on-year. “This essentially means South Africa’s wheat imports could increase to 1.9 million tonnes in order to fulfil the domestic needs (up from 940 000 tonnes in the 2016/17 season),” explained Sihlobo.

Source: Agricultural Business Chamber

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