South Africa’s largest maize crop in history

The country’s largest maize crop is expected later this year, says the Department of Agriculture. We look at the positive effects of this on exports and food security.

Maize
South Africa is expecting its largest maize crop in history in 2017, says the Department of Agriculture. (Image: Brand South Africa)

Brand South Africa reporter

South Africa could expect its largest maize crop in the country’s history, said the Crop Estimates Committee of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff).

The yield of maize is expected to be just more than 15-million tons, 101% higher than the 2016 crop, despite the drought.

“The three main maize producing areas, namely the Free State, Mpumalanga and North West provinces, are expected to produce 83% of the 2017 crop,” said the department.

The bumper harvest is expected to have a knock-on effect on food prices, by bringing them down.

Drought relief

Despite the recent drought in Southern African, caused by the El Niño climate phenomenon, there was more than double the average recorded rainfall in January and February, according to local weather services.

In November 2016, Daff also received R212-million from the National Disaster Centre for drought relief efforts for farmers.

Earlier this month, it provided an update on the money spent.

“With the allocated funds, Daff has managed to assist 74,335 farmers. Currently, Daff has distributed 613,481 bags of animal feed and 3,790 tons of lucerne.” In total, the department had spent R210-million of the allocated funds.

Effect on exports and food security

Surplus maize would most likely be exported, said Grain South Africa. “Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, those are three countries that have ordered a lot of maize from South Africa,” Grain South Africa CEO Jannie de Villiers told Reuters.

South Africa’s domestic consumption of maize was approximately 10.5-million tons, he said. Anything over that could be exported, showing the resilience of the country’s agriculture sector.

The increased harvest could also improve food security in South Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines food security as a state in which all people in society have enough food always for an active and healthy life. “Food security as an umbrella term includes the availability of food that is nutritious and safe, and an assured ability to procure and acquire food of good quality in a socially acceptable way.”

After a 10-year study, which started in 1999, the WHO concluded that food security in South Africa had increased. It cited government programmes such as feeding schemes in schools and social grants as positively contributing to people having more food.

“Although the measures and programmes initiated by the South African government appear to be beneficial, they need to be run more effectively to further alleviate food insecurity,” the report read.

Statistics South Africa found similar results in its 2016 General Household Survey. “The percentage of South African households with inadequate or severely inadequate access to food decreased from 23.9% in 2010 to 22.3% in 2016,” the organisation said.

“The percentage of households that experienced hunger decreased from 23.8% to 11.8% while the percentage of individuals who experienced hunger decreased from 29.3% to 13.4% over the same period.”

Other harvest grains

The remaining grain forecast is largely unchanged, except for dry beans.

  • Sunflower seeds remain unchanged at 853,470 tons
  • Soybeans remain unchanged at 1.2-million tons
  • Ground nut crop remains unchanged at 86,600 tons
  • Sorghum remains unchanged at 153,480 tons
  • Dry beans increase by 1.94% to 68,450 tons

Sources: Daff, World Health Organization, Stats SA

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