South Africa

GIEWS Country Brief: South Africa - 10 January 2012

News and Press Release
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  • Slow start to the 2011/12 rainy season, but precipitation levels improve in December 2011

  • Maize planting intentions for the current 2011/12 cropping season show an increase relative to the previous season

  • Decline in 2010/11 maize output; but wheat production increased

  • Maize (yellow) prices continue to rise in December 2011

Improved rains towards the end of 2011

The slow start of the 2011/12 rainy season (October-March) resulted in early seasonal water deficits and lower than normal vegetation conditions in north-eastern areas, particularly impacting Free State, the largest maize producing province. However, rains picked-up in December helping to reduce moisture deficits in the main maize growing regions. Planting intentions for the current agriculture campaign indicate a 10 percent increase for maize compared with last year’s level, largely seen as a response to the high maize prices during 2011. More firm estimates on the planted area for the 2011/12 season will be available in the next month.

Decline in cereal output in 2011

Harvesting of the 2011 winter wheat crop was completed at the end of November 2011 and latest estimates point to a harvest of about 1.78 million tonnes. The latest figure is slightly lower than the previous forecast, as a result of dry conditions, particularly in Free State, during September/October, but production still remains 24 percent above the 2010 output. Aggregate cereal production for 2011 is estimated at 13.2 million tonnes, 13 percent below the harvest of 2010.

Strong maize exports during 2011/12 marketing year (May/April)

Maize exports, so far (May-November 2011), are estimated at 1.86 million tonnes, more than twice their level a year earlier. Robust demand from Asia and Central America has driven the high level of exports this season, which have been supported by the comparatively low price of South Africa maize (white) relative to the international market price. Exports to Southern African countries are below their levels of last year and constitute only 15 percent of total exports. Furthermore, given the forecast of a tighter stock situation at the end of the current 2011/12 marketing year, South Africa has already imported small quantities of maize.

Maize prices continue to gain strength

Following low prices in 2010, the monthly price of yellow maize continued its upward trend and reached a record level of Rand 2 512 per tonne in December 2011, compared to Rand 1 400 in December 2010. White maize prices remained firm at Rand 2 469 per tonne, but were still significantly higher than Rand 1 341 recorded a year earlier. The rising prices have been fuelled by higher international prices, lower production in 2011 and strong export demand. Wheat prices, by contrast, fell during the last quarter of 2011, reflecting lower international prices, and were 5 percent below last year’s level.