South Africa White Corn Sufficient for Coming Months, Agbiz Says

  • Country will have to source 1.1 million tons from September
  • While harvest progressing well, deliveries drop 53 percent

South Africa, the continent’s top corn producer, has enough white corn for the coming months as dry weather helps boost harvesting but may struggle to source required imports of the grain it uses as a staple later this season, an industry body said.

While the harvest is proceeding well, the nation still has to import 1.1 million metric tons of white corn in the year to April 2017, Wandile Sihlobo, head economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber, said in an e-mailed response to questions. The imports are required to meet local consumption needs after the worst drought in more than a century damaged crops. Farmers reap their crop from about May to August.

South Africa, which is usually a net exporter of agricultural products, may need to import 3.8 million tons of white and yellow corn this year, according to Grain SA, the biggest lobby for grain and oilseed farmers. That’s after rainfall last year declined to the least since 1904. White corn is used as a staple food known locally as pap, while the yellow type is mainly fed to animals.

“We have sufficient supplies for now and the coming months as the harvest keeps coming in,” Sihlobo said. “There is no immediate shortage. Current data suggest that we might struggle to get sufficient supplies from Mexico and the U.S., so the market will only get more clarity around September and October, when the U.S. and Mexico start their harvests.”

Outside of southern Africa, only Mexico is a major producer of white corn, and it doesn’t have a lot to export, according to Oxfam. South Africa’s ports haven’t received any white corn since the week that ended May 20, data from the nation’s grain information service show.

Local farmers may produce 7.17 million metric tons of both white and yellow corn this year, a Bloomberg survey showed. That’s about 28 percent smaller than last year’s harvest, and would be the smallest crop since 2008. Farmers’ deliveries of the white variety since the season started in May have dropped 53 percent from the same period a year earlier to 731,260 tons, grain service data show.

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