The drier weather conditions in the Western Cape province of South Africa, a major wheat producer, have weighed on the country’s 2022/23 wheat harvest. The impact of lower yields in parts of the province is evident in the recent Crop Estimates Committee’s wheat production update, which placed the province’s crop at 954 000 tonnes, down from 1,26 million tonnes in the 2021/22 season.

From a national perspective, South Africa’s 2022/23 wheat harvest is at 2,18 million tonnes, down by 3% from December 2022 forecast and 2021/22 harvest. The challenge is poor yields in the Western Cape, not a reduced area planting.

Farmers lifted the area plantings to 566 800 hectares, from 523 500 hectares in the previous year. This was on the back of attractive prices following a surge in wheat prices after Russia invaded Ukraine, as well as good soil moisture in various wheat-growing regions of the country. Notably, the decline in the Western Cape’s crop was somewhat compensated by the increase in the harvest in the Northern Cape, Free State, and Limpopo, amongst other provinces.

Overall, South Africa will remain a net importer of wheat. I expect the country to import 1,60 million tonnes, roughly unchanged from the previous year. The major wheat suppliers will likely remain Argentina, Lithuania, Brazil, Australia, Poland, Latvia, and the US.

If one looks into South Africa’s wheat imports data for the past five years, Russia was one of the major wheat suppliers, accounting for an average share of 26% yearly. The suppliers mentioned above have replaced this volume.

But we are now seeing a return of Russia in the wheat suppliers for South Africa. Notably, Russia is currently one of the leading suppliers of wheat to South Africa in the 2022/23 season.

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