Nothing can stand in the way of good news, especially if the good news is “food”. I am currently in Somerset West, Western Cape attending an annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa and had planned to write a brief piece about a few aspects I picked up from the research papers presented here today. But, the research papers can wait, I have just noted that national Crop Estimate Committee lifted its estimate of South Africa’s 2018/19 winter wheat production by 2 percent from the previous month to 1.85 million tonnes. This is 20 percent higher than the previous estimate (see Chart below).


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South African wheat production
Source: SAGIS, CEC


The improvement is mainly on the back of an expansion in area planted, as well as an improvement in yields – all thanks to improvement in rainfall in most parts of the Western Cape. I single out this particular province because of its lion share contribution of 48 percent in South Africa’s 2018/19 wheat production. In a conversation with a couple of farmers from this province earlier this week, there was optimism and hope for better yields, which is precisely what was mirrored on the Crop Estimate Committee’s data.

The positive outlook is not only limited to the Western Cape, but the winter crop growing conditions are also favourable in provinces such as the Northern Cape, Free State, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, amongst others — all thanks to recent rainfall and improved water levels in the dams for irrigation following good summer rainfall.

Overall, this implies that South Africa’s wheat imports for the 2018/19 marketing year which starts in October 2018 could decline by 33 percent from the previous season to 1.4 million tonnes. This is good for the country’s agricultural trade balance.

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