As the harvest for the 2020/21 summer grains and oilseeds draws to a close, the focus is increasingly shifting towards the 2021/22 production season, which commences in October. The preliminary insights suggest that South Africa could have another good season, although rainfall might not be as abundant in the 2020/21 season. The three critical indicators we have thus far, i.e., (1) the tractor sales, (2) weather outlook for the next five months, and (3) grains and oilseed prices, paint a positive outlook.

First, South Africa’s tractor sales for the first half of 2021 are up 27% year on year (y/y), at 3 385 units. Admittedly, the improved farmers’ finances following a large harvest and higher commodity prices in 2020/21 have been a key support factor. Still, the positive sentiment about the upcoming 2021/22 production season is also an essential factor behind the higher levels of tractor sales.

As I recently highlighted in this column, the optimism in the sector is also clear from the results of the agribusiness confidence levels in the second quarter of the year. The Agbiz/IDC Agribusiness Confidence Index, which measures the sentiment amongst agribusinesses and major farming entities, reached a record high (since its inception in 2001) of 75 in the second quarter of this year from 64 in the first quarter of 2021. While these results reflected favourable conditions for all subsectors of agriculture, with various crops set to reach record output levels in the 2020/21 season, the next season will benefit from the positive momentum.

Second, the weather outlook for the upcoming 2021/22 production season shows encouraging signs. In its Seasonal Climate Watch for August to December 2021, the South African Weather Service noted that “the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently in a neutral state and the forecast indicates that it will most likely remain in a neutral state for spring, with a likely change to a weak La Niña during early-summer. As we move towards the spring and summer seasons, ENSO plays an important role in our summer rainfall. As such, the increased likelihood of a weak La Niña during early summer is expected to be favourable for above-normal rainfall in that period.”

Importantly, the expected higher rainfall would most likely be a reality in the central to eastern regions of South Africa throughout December, while the country’s western areas will most likely receive normal rains. The outlook from January onwards is unclear at this stage. Still, I think if the forecast weather outlook materializes, it could set favourable production conditions for yet another season. The 2020/21 summer season brought higher rainfall which improved soil moisture across the country. This sets a good starting point for sowing for the next season. This is conducive not only for the major grains and oilseeds, which are the primary focus in this note, but also for the entire agricultural sector.

You can read the full article by clicking here (paywall). The article was written for and first published on News24/Fin24.

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