SOUTH AFRICA – The South African government’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) has announced a projected 18.4% decrease in maize harvest for the 2023/2024 season compared to the previous year.

The CEC’s fifth summer crop forecast estimates the 2024 harvest at 13.405 million metric tons, down from the 16.430 million tons harvested last season. This figure is a slight increase from the previous estimate on May 28, which was 13.310 million tons.

The anticipated harvest includes 6.348 million tons of white maize for human consumption and 7.057 million tons of yellow maize, primarily used for animal feed. Initially, the CEC had set an optimistic forecast of 13.3 million tons for the year.

Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz), recently commented on the ongoing harvest, expressing hope for achieving the 2024 target.

Despite the impact of a mid-summer drought, early indications appear promising, with 1.2 million tons delivered to commercial silos in the first two weeks of May. The harvest season began in early May and is expected to gain momentum through July across various regions.

Sihlobo noted that the initial delivery signals a strong start, although figures may have dipped in the third week of May due to many farmers attending the Nampo agricultural exhibition in Bothaville, one of the largest in the southern hemisphere.

He added that the mid-summer drought caused significant crop losses. While the expected harvest is sufficient to meet South Africa’s annual maize consumption of approximately 12 million tons, it leaves a smaller surplus for export.

As a result, the Southern African region’s demand, particularly for white maize, along with potentially tight supplies later in the year, is expected to drive South African maize prices higher.

The Agricultural Business Chamber has forecast a 58% drop in South African corn exports this marketing season, which could lead to shortages in neighboring countries that traditionally rely on South Africa during droughts.

The country is expected to ship 1.44 million tons of maize in the 12 months through April 2025, compared to 3.44 million tons in the previous season.

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