The grain industry braces itself for an exceptional harvesting season, garnering the second-biggest maize crop we’ve ever recorded in history, says Luan van der Walt, an agricultural economist at Grain SA.
The news comes as a welcome relief for the country’s grain industry and farmers who, in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, also experienced diesel shortages and rain that delayed their harvesting operations.
Van der Walt says the maize crop is expected to equal about 15.5 million tonnes. He notes, however, that although maize fared well on a national level, the western and central parts of the Free State and North West are still behind schedule.
He tells Food For Mzansi, “There are problems, especially in the western and north-western parts of the Free State, and even some parts of central Free State and North West. The drying of the maize is moving really slowly. That is why the harvesting is quite late as well.”
Van der Walt adds that most of the oil seeds and soybeans fared well in some parts of the country, although not to the exact levels initially anticipated. “The sunflower seeds are also mostly done, but there might be a few areas that might still be harvesting sunflower seeds.”
VKB also expecting ‘exceptional harvest’
Furthermore, Johan van Rensburg, manager of grain services at the VKB Group, adds that the leading agricultural enterprise is also anticipating an exceptional harvest in most regions it services. This is despite recent rains that delayed grain crops from drying.
“Yields are what most growers were expecting and the quality, with a few exceptions, is also good. Some of the harvest is still wet, but it is starting to dry.”
Van Rensburg adds that exports are running optimally, off-takers are producing food and that VKB remains optimistic that the harvest will continue without any foreseeable issues.
Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo says as Mzansi’s summer crops, including maize, is set to be one of the best on record, the focus now shifts to the outlook for winter crops, specifically wheat. Alas, for wheat farmers the 2020-2021 season had a bad start because of dry weather conditions, and production forecasts looks bleak.
The Western Cape, which typically accounts for two-thirds of the country’s winter wheat plantings, experienced a delay of about three weeks in plantings. Ahead of the start of the season, the crop estimates committee projected that plantings could fall by 2% year on year in the province. After accounting for unfavourable weather conditions in other provinces, the committee estimates an overall 8% year-on-year decline in national winter wheat plantings for the 2020-2021 season.
Sihlobo says, “But that dim view is quickly changing after early rains enabled farmers to accelerate plantings in the Western Cape and other provinces. The various interactions we have had with farmers in this province suggest the area planted under wheat could be the same as in 2019-2020. We will have a clearer view of this when the crop estimates committee releases its preliminary area estimate data for winter crops on 29 July.”