Zimbabwe’s maize shortage may have forced SA to import

2014-04-06 14:00

A maize shortage in neighbouring Zimbabwe may be part of the reason South Africa had to import maize for the first time in almost two years.

According to the SA Grain Information Service, South Africa imported 40?340 tons of yellow maize from Ukraine between March 15 and March?28.

Louw Steytler, the chairperson of Grain SA, which represents commercial farmers, said this was ­because a higher-than-expected amount of yellow maize had been exported to Zimbabwe.

“The Zimbabwean government has imported maize that was not projected in the supply and demand of the industry estimates, and this is what has been replaced,” said Steytler.

Between April 2012 and April 2013, the total amount of maize (white and yellow) exported to Zimbabwe was only 7?693 tons.

But from May 2013 until the end of last month, the amount of yellow and white maize exported had grown to 263?672 tons.

“In Zimbabwe, with the land reform that [President Robert] Mugabe has embarked upon, food security has become a real issue and the ­Zimbabwean farmers can’t produce enough to feed themselves. There is also a shortage of currency for them to afford inputs,” said Steytler.

Of the 263?672 tons exported to Zimbabwe, about 25?110 tons were yellow maize.

But Steytler said although the situation might go on for the “foreseeable future”, it won’t have too much of an effect on South Africa.

“In the short term, there is a spike in the

market because of unforeseen circumstances and ­because we had to import from Ukraine, but we have a good maize crop for South Africa and we are self-sufficient. Now that the market has ­factored this in, we will be able to correct it.”

Tau Tawengwa, a Zimbabwean maize and cattle farmer, blamed the shortage on Zimbabwe’s Grain Marketing Board, which he accused of mismanaging funds for the past two to three years.

“It decided to pay maize farmers a tenth of what it used to pay,” he said.

This led to maize farmers opting to farm tobacco, which they see as more profitable.

Tawengwa said the maize shortage crisis has forced Zimbabwe to import 150?000 tons of maize for the season from Zambia and South Africa.

Christo Joubert of the National Agriculture ­Marketing Council said South African maize was relatively cheap in terms of world prices due to a surplus. “When prices trade at or below export parity, maize will be bought up and exported. When the surplus is worked away, prices start moving away from export parity towards import parity.”

Joubert said when it reaches import parity, it becomes profitable to start importing and traders start selling maize on the South African market and buying on the international market.

But stocks for both yellow and white maize seem to be under pressure. In a market estimates report released by the National Agriculture Marketing Council this week, the projected closing stock level at the end of April is estimated at 466?064 tons, which is stock available for only 18 days into May.

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