The past two week’s rainfall has resulted in an improvement of soil moisture in most parts of the country, albeit the western areas are still relatively dry.

To demonstrate this improvement — Figure 1 below shows the subsoil moisture across the country in the week of January 8, 2019, while, Figure 2 illustrates subsoil moisture in the week of December 28, 2018.

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Figure 1: South Africa’s subsoil moisture (week of January 8, 2019)
Source: World Weather Inc.
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Figure 2: South Africa’s subsoil Moisture (week of December 28, 2018)
Source: World Weather Inc.

The implications of this have increased maize and sunflower seed planting activity in the western Free State and North West in the past couple of weeks, although those crops will not yield well because of the lateness of the season, particularly maize.

Around mid-December, less than 20% of the North West intended area had been planted, but the current estimates from Grain SA suggest that maize planting is about 60% in the province and farmers are still hard at work in some fields planting. In the eastern Free State, the estimates suggest that roughly 70% of the intended area for maize has already been planted.

Overall, the past few weeks rainfall have thus far had a positive impact in terms of boosting summer crop planting and improving grazing veld for livestock.

But, as I have stressed in the previous posts, the harvest for key grains such as maize will most likely be well below our initial estimate of 12.2 million tonnes for the 2018/19 production season. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also recently lowered its estimate for South Africa’s 2018/19 maize production to 12.0 million tonnes (commercial and non-commercial), down from 13.5 million tonnes the previous season. This is likely to be lowered again when the agency releases its update (assuming that the US government shutdown ends soon so that the USDA can get on with its functions).

As I stated in the previous posts, over time, this will add inflationary pressure on consumers and animal feed industries.

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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