The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also joined the party in forecasting a potentially big maize harvest for South Africa in 2019/20 season. The agency placed its estimate at 14.0 million tonnes, which would be a notable recovery from the current season’s crop of 11.6 million tonnes (commercial and non-commercial), and well above the five-year average production of 12.3 million tonnes. For comparison, the International Grains Council’s preliminary estimate for South Africa’s 2019/20 maize production is 12.8 million tonnes.

Two things underpinning this potential improvement – anticipated slight uptick in area plantings and also prospects of good rainfall.

I have previously discussed the weather forecast in this blog post. In brief, the South African Weather Service indicated on August 30 that the central and eastern parts of the country could receive above-normal rainfall between November 2019 and January 2020.

The weather outlook for the northwestern regions of South Africa are still unclear at this point, but I think there could be normal showers. It is quite rare to find a season where the northeastern parts of South Africa experience above-normal rainfall while the northwestern areas are dry, hence my optimism that the overall summer crop growing areas could receive sufficient rains in the 2019/2020 production season.

I recently drove across Mpumalanga, Free State and Gauteng farms. The fields have been cleared, and ready for planting period which commences around mid-October in the eastern parts of South Africa, as illustrated in Figure 1 below.

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Figure 1: South Africa’s maize optimal planting dates
Source: Grain SA, Agbiz Research


For agricultural analysts, this means that from next month onwards the weather will be one of the important factors to monitor as it will influence South Africa’s maize prices.

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