S. Africa White-Corn Imports Seen Missing Target by Chamber

Updated on
  • Nation may not source 1.1 million tons white corn needed
  • Country has received 78,827 tons white corn in 2016-17 season

South Africa, which is set to produce the smallest corn crop since 2008 this year, may miss a target to import enough of the white variety this season to meet consumers’ needs, the biggest agricultural lobby group said.

“It is still unclear whether we will be able to see the forecast 1.1 million tons by the end of the season,” that terminates in April, Wandile Sihlobo, head economist at Agricultural Business Chamber, said by phone Tuesday. An increase in the pace of imports and supplies from the nation’s own harvest, which is reaped from May to August, “will keep things cushioned,” he said.

The country may need to import 3.8 million metric tons of corn this year, of which 1.1 million tons will be of the white type, according to Grain SA, the largest lobby for grain and oilseed farmers. The imports are required to meet local consumption needs after rainfall last year declined to the least since records started in 1904, damaging crops and raising prices in the continent’s biggest producer.

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 African farmers may produce 7.16 million tons of both white and yellow corn this year, about 28 percent less than last year’s harvest, according to the nation’s Crop Estimates Committee.

Corn Imports

South African ports have received 78,827 tons of white corn from the U.S. and Mexico since the marketing season started in May, data on the website of the nation’s Grain Information Service showed.

The country became a net importer of the grain for the first time since 2008 in the season that ended in April, bringing in 1.96 million tons of both varieties of corn, the most since 1993, because of the drought.

Imports included 1.86 million tons of the yellow type, the most since at least 2004, and 96,932 tons of the white variety, the grain service said. Argentina was the biggest source of yellow corn at 1.12 million tons, while for white, Mexico was the largest supplier at 51,040 tons.

White corn for December delivery rose 1 percent to 4,633 rand ($322) a ton by 9:44 a.m. on the South African Futures Exchange in Johannesburg, while the yellow variety gained 1.4 percent to 3,435 rand a ton. White corn is used to make a staple food called pap locally, while the yellow type is fed mainly to animals.

“In the event that we don’t get what is required, nobody really knows what will happen, but I imagine there will be some adjustments within the consumption levels,” Sihlobo said.