SOUTH AFRICA – According to the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), South Africa is projected to produce 14.3 million tons of maize this year, compared with 16.4 million tons produced last year, which was also the second-highest crop on record.

Analyzing the results, Dr Penny Byrne, Standard Bank environment, social and governance and climate change investment analyst said that despite the drop, the country should be able to meet its local demand.

She noted that domestic consumption of maize averaged below 12 million tons every year, hence the harvest should be enough for local and even supply to neighbours including Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Byrne added that these countries have experienced trying conditions associated with El Niño, with an exceptionally dry February, impacting their cereal production.

The unpleasant conditions prompted Zambia to declare a state of emergency after the drought destroyed about 1 million hectares of the 2.2 million hectares planted with the staple maize crop.  

In a speech to the nation, Zambian President Mr Hichilema said he had asked security forces to focus more on food production. He said 84 of the country’s 116 districts were affected by the prolonged drought and that authorities would take food from areas where there is a surplus and distribute it to areas in need.

Additionally, Zambia plans to increase food imports and mobilize UN agencies and local businesses to help.

Meanwhile, Standard Bank initially expected that South Africa would have another bumper summer crop since rainfall had been average across most of the top-growing regions in the country in the early part of the season; however, a flash drought in February set in during a crucial time in the growth cycle of summer crops.

These conditions have been exacerbated across the western part of the maize belt, which has resulted in a spike in South African Futures Exchange white maize prices.

“Still, the last three summers resulted in bumper crops in South Africa largely due to the impact of La Niña, which brought good rainfall over the country.”

This means solid carry-over stocks to buffer a potentially poor harvest this year. Nevertheless, higher white maize prices might still impel higher food inflation this year,” Byrne explained.

She concluded that the global grains market is in good shape, fortunately, with record global production across many grains resulting in lower prices internationally.

Additionally, the current El Niño-Southern Oscillation forecasts suggest a high likelihood that it will end in the coming months, with the more wet La Niña resurging for the 2024/25 summer season.

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