Augetto Graig - The optimum planting window for the summer crops of maize and soybeans in South Africa has passed, with hardly anything planted in the western parts of the production areas, according to Grain SA.
On 27 December 2018, Grain SA CEO Jannie de Villiers said there was still some time left to grow sunflowers.
“The probability of a repeat of the 2016 drought is increasing daily,” De Villiers said.
“Some of the scenarios we are facing look even grimmer than the previous drought. The financial position of most farming units in the production area is far worse than it was in 2016.
“The current grain prices are not high enough and thus do not favour nor encourage farmers to take a similar risk by planting beyond the optimum window, as they did in 2016.”
The South African economy, and consumers especially, can hardly afford yet another blow. In addition, high food inflation during an election year will likely just add fuel to an already smouldering fire, according to the autonomous voluntary membership grain promotion organisation.
Grain and grain-based products like chicken, eggs, red meat and dairy products represent 75% of the food basket, they say.
Should the current conditions continue, South Africa may need to import maize. This could result in white maize prices moving to import parity levels of well over R4 000 per tonne from the current levels of approximately R3 000 per tonne, the organisation warns. Especially with white maize, that is of concern, they say.
Traditionally, white maize is predominantly grown in the western production areas where almost no planting has taken place. White maize is also not readily available for imports as it is mostly produced in the southern parts of Africa and around Mexico.
The global stocks of yellow maize used for animal feed is in plentiful supply, though. However, if it has to be imported, the prices will also increase substantially, Grain SA warns.
Grain farmers in the Free State and North West will need between 25 mm and 50 mm of rain to start planting, with immediate follow-up rain.
Furthermore, the crops planted in the eastern parts of South Africa are also struggling.
Conditions are far from ideal: “If we consider the current crop status planted, late plantings or even no plantings, the farmers and South Africa are in for a very rough ride in 2019,” De Villiers said.
It is early days to try and estimate a crop for 2019, but the probability of a short crop is increasing by the day, he says.
A crop failure implies that the opportunity for grain farmers to generate an income would only be in July 2020 when a next crop can be harvested.
The payments for current inputs (seed, fertiliser, diesel and chemicals), as well as all fixed costs for the year ahead, still needed to be settled, he said.