• Continent has 35 Million hectares planted with the grain
  • Average yield on African land planted with corn under 2 tons

DuPont Co.’s Pioneer unit, the biggest supplier of hybrid corn seed in Africa, said farmers of the grain on the continent could more than double productivity over the next few decades if they switched to hybrid seed.

The continent currently has about 35 million hectares (86.5 million acres) planted with corn, yielding under 2 metric tons per hectare, Prabdeep Bajwa, the African regional business director for Pioneer, said in an interview in Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office on Aug. 5. Productivity could rise to an average of between 5 and 7 tons per hectare if farmers used the right seed, he said. The amount of land under corn is unlikely to increase, he said.

“We see great opportunity to bring that maize seed, tested locally, adopted locally, and just tremendous opportunity to improve productivity,” he said. Maize is the term used for corn in Africa.

Africa as a whole produced 77.6 million tons of corn in 2014, data on the Food and Agriculture Organization website shows.

Over the past decade the average yield on South African corn farms, which include the most advanced in Africa, has ranged between 2.53 tons and 4.84 tons per hectare, according to the South African Grain Information Service. While genetically modified seed is used in South Africa, it’s banned by countries on the rest of the continent. Yields in the U.S., the world’s biggest corn producer, average about 7 tons per hectare, while they are about 5.4 tons in western Europe, Bajwa said.

Pioneer bought a controlling stake in South Africa’s closely held Pannar Seed Ltd. in 2013, and markets the seeds under both brands.

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