South Africa

South Africa vs Zimbabwe maize production

Comparing South Africa and Zimbabwe’s maize production reveals a clear trend, illustrating the devastation caused by Zimbabwe’s decision to chase white farmers off their land.

South Africa is on track to produce its second-highest maize production in history with an upward adjustment made to the estimated total production to 16.35 million tonnes for the 2022/23 year.

Chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber Wandile Sihlobo said the South African market has roughly an 11.4 million ton maize demand, leaving ample supply for export.

The chart below shows the increase in South Africa’s maize output over the last thirty years.

South Africa has seen a consistent upward trend in its maize output over time. This increase is partly a result of increased yield through better farming methods.

Over the past decade, the total surface area used to plant maize has decreased from around 2.8 million hectares to below 2.6 million hectares.

Maize farmers in South Africa have therefore produced higher crop yields per surface area, likely due to better technology throughout the farming process.

There has been a strong upward trend in the South African maize yield over time, with average maize yields exceeding 6 tonnes per hectare in high-producing years.

Comparing South Africa’s maize production to that of Zimbabwe provides valuable insight into the latter’s disastrous land policy.

Zimbabwe experienced very weak maize production in the early 2000s when it expropriated many productive farms.

After productive farmers were chased off the land, the country experienced significant decreases throughout its agricultural sector.

The chart below shows Zimbabwe’s maize output over the last three decades.

In recent years, Zimbabwe started seeing significant increases in maize production, which returned to similar production levels in the late nineties.

This is partly a result of proactive measures from Zimbabwe to boost its effort to increase its maize production.

In 2020, the Zimbabwean government urged farmers to increase their maize production and set a target annual production of 2.4 million tonnes.

In 2022, Zimbabwe produced 2.7 million tonnes of maize and closed its borders to any maize imports.

This was great news for Zimbabwe, but things started unravelling again, with the 2023 estimates falling far short of expectations.

The current estimate for 2023 maize production in Zimbabwe is at around 1.56 million tonnes, well below the demand of 2.2 million tons.

Zimbabwe also only has an average maize yield of about 1.4 tonnes per hectare – far lower than South Africa.

Silhobo said Zimbabwe’s efforts to significantly boost their maize production in the 2022/23 period have failed.

He said this poses a great opportunity for South African farmers as Zimbabwean consumers rely on South African maize.

The gap between South African and Zimbabwean maize production has widened over the years, as shown in the chart below.


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