The production conditions in the N-West Free State and the N-West Province are currently extremely critical and virtually no maize or other summer crops have been planted in these areas. The optimum planting date has already expired, and the production expected in these two areas will have a huge impact on the total maize harvest for this season. There is at this stage no indication of how many hectares have already been planted or can still be planted and it is therefore not possible to make any crop estimate.
These two areas produce on average about 72% of the total white maize harvest in the country which are of the highest quality in the world because it is sun-dried and not dried in drying ovens as in most other maize-producing countries in the world. In these countries the maize is harvested when it is not yet dry enough due to wet and humid weather conditions and must be dried.
Very little white maize is produced in the world because it is consumed only in African countries as a staple food, while the other countries produce yellow maize as animal feed. Therefore, it is not always easy to buy white maize on the international market to import.
Yellow maize had to be mixed into white maize after the very severe drought experienced by the country in 1991/92 when barely one ton of maize per hectare was produced. The mixed maize was not very popular with local consumers because they prefer pure white maize meal.
However, the previous government was prepared in that season to assist the maize producers with the production losses they suffered by allocating R3,8 billion as emergency aid as well as lower interest rate debt relief schemes.
This season, unfortunately, the producers are again totally exposed to a disastrous drought and will, as usual, not receive any assistance from the ANC government. This government simply does not understand the important role played by the agricultural industry under very difficult circumstances as the food and other raw material supplier to the rest of the economy, because the creation of economic growth is not part of its destructive socialist and communist redistribution ideology. The redistribution of land will undoubtedly create many major problems for the government in future, as many black farmers will be totally wiped out financially during a single disastrous drought.
However, as things stand now, it is very clear that it is not likely that even 30% to 40% of the average white maize crop normally produced in these areas will be delivered this season.
The coefficient of variation around the average long-term maize yield in South Africa of 4 tons per hectare is 25%, which means that the total crop can be between 3 tons and 5 tons per hectare during any season. This variation should be accepted as normal for maize production under the climatic conditions experienced in South Africa. In other words, the average yield for this season can be anything around the lower deviation of 3 tons per hectare. If a total area of ??2 million hectares, which is very doubtful, would be planted this season, this would mean a total crop of only 6 million tons or if only 1,5 million hectares would be planted, the total crop could even be as low as 4,5 million tons.
According to these scenarios, the approximately estimated 3,3 million tons of maize carryover stocks in the country for the new marketing year starting May 1, 2019 will not be enough for the country's total demand of between 10 and 11 million tons and our neighbouring countries Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho. This means that maize will have to be imported at much higher import parity prices, which will mainly be determined by the changes in international maize prices and the exchange rate. As a result, these conditions may have a very negative impact on the economic growth rate for the second and third quarters in 2019 compared to the same quarters this year, as well as the inflation rate.
Independent Agricultural Economist