South Africa Releases First Grain Supply-Demand Estimates

South Africa, the continent’s largest corn producer, released its first grain supply and demand estimates to help smooth price swings and improve stocks information, a committee set up to collate the data said.

The country will consume 9.55 million metric tons of corn in the year to April, compared with supply of 12.2 million tons, the Grain and Oilseeds Supply and Demand Estimates Committee said in its first report, e-mailed by Pretoria-based Crop Estimates Committee’s spokeswoman Marda Scheepers.

The information-sharing committee, which comprises traders, agricultural businesses and processors, is tracking intended shipments to help prevent excessive exports that could threaten local food supply. A government-backed plan to ship a record surplus of corn, one of the nation’s staple foods, cut stocks to the lowest in at least 12 years by the end of April last year. Exports surged to the highest in nine years in 2012.

“Industry stakeholders expressed the need for much-improved information on intended imports or exports of grains and oilseeds,” the committee said. “There is a need for official supply and demand figures for the major grain and oilseed crops, as is common practice in many countries.”

In South Africa, white corn is a staple food, while the yellow type is mainly used as animal feed. The average needed each month is projected at 745,250 tons, the committee said.

Grain Forecasts

The forecast for total demand of white corn is 5.01 million tons while the total supply will probably be 6.47 million tons in the marketing year through April, it said. Demand for the yellow variety is predicted at 4.54 million tons while its supply will be 5.74 million tons.

The Crop Estimates Committee cut its forecast for corn output by 0.6 percent to 11.38 million tons, it said in a June 25 report. South Africa produced 12.8 million tons in 2010, the biggest harvest since 1982.

The Supply and Demand Estimates Committee will release the data monthly, about three or four days after the crop output and planting forecasts, Lizette Mellet, a spokeswoman for the National Agricultural Marketing Council, which runs the SDEC, said by phone from Pretoria today.

The NAMC won’t disclose individual information to other parties to avoid uncompetitive behavior, the SDEC said in the report.

An antitrust crackdown that led to grain miller Pioneer Foods Ltd. being fined a record 500 million rand ($50 million) in 2010 curbed information-sharing in the industry, leaving buyers unclear on how much corn is leaving the country.

South African white-corn futures have declined 23 percent since reaching an intraday record level of 2,879 rand a ton in Johannesburg on July 23. The contract for delivery of the grain in December, the most active, fell by the maximum 80 rand, or 3.4 percent, to 2,250 rand a ton.