Last week, 1.4 million tonnes of maize was harvested by South African farmers and delivered to commercial silos, keeping the sector on track to record the third-highest harvest ever.
This is news from Wandile Sihlobo, the chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa.
For comparison, the amount of maize harvested in South Africa last week equals Zimbabwe’s annual maize harvest.
In the first seven weeks of the 2023/24 marketing year, South African farmers delivered 4.8 million tonnes of maize to commercial silos.
This leaves the industry on track to record the third-largest harvest in history, with an expected 16.1 million tonnes to be harvested in this marketing year.
This is up 5.5% on last year and is mainly due to increased efficiency and crop yields as the area planted has declined year-on-year due to heavy rainfall disrupting the planting season.
Such a large harvest means South Africa can comfortably meet the domestic demand for maize, which is anticipated to be 11.4 million tonnes.
This leaves over 3 million tonnes of maize for export, providing much-needed foreign exchange for South Africa and boosting its trade balance.
Last week, South Africa exported 90,539 tonnes of maize, with 33% going to South Korea, 31% to Taiwan, and 25% to Japan. The balance was exported to Africa.
For the year to date, over 520,000 tonnes of maize have been exported.
In 2022, South African agricultural exports were worth $12.8 billion, with 51% of total agricultural production exported.
40% of exports last year went to Africa, 27% to Asia, 20% to the European Union, and 4% to the US and UK. Less than 2% was exported to Russia.
According to Sihlobo, South African farmers have benefitted from the weaker rand this year as it makes exports more competitive globally.
However, a weak rand also harmed farmers, making importing machinery, fertilizers, and chemicals more expensive.