South Africa’s summer crops are taking strain form the heatwave

South Africa’s summer crops are taking strain form the heatwave

The weather forecast for the week still paints a worrying picture of continuous dryness in much of South Africa. There will likely be scattered light showers over the eastern regions during the week, which won’t make much difference in the deteriorating crop conditions because of excessive heat in the various areas of our beautiful country.

The farmers’ survey done by our colleagues at Grain SA on 21 February 2024 shows that the North West province is under much strain, and some regions already see crop damage. The Free State, primarily the western and central areas, is also worrying.

Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are slightly better, and the crop could still yield a decent harvest if we get good rains soon. Still, the crop is under immense strain from the current heat wave and scant rains. I must say, within these provinces, there are regions experiencing crop damage; it is not all better.

Overall, the summer crop conditions in South Africa are not ideal –our optimism from the start of the season is no longer the reality.

The crop urgently needs rain, and we hope that the forecast widespread showers in the first week of March will materialize.

The farmers have done their part – ploughed roughly 4,4 million hectares of summer grains and oilseed, up 0,4% year-on-year – the rest is out of their hands.

We pray for rain.


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

SA summer crop conditions are still in fair condition but need rain

SA summer crop conditions are still in fair condition but need rain

This past week, I drove from Pretoria to Edenville, a small farming town in the northern region of the Free State, for a farmers’ day.

The drive provided yet another opportunity to assess crop conditions up close. I deliberately stayed away from the main highway, N1, and drove through Sasolburg and Heilbron to get a better view of the fields.

From what I could tell from a distance, the production conditions have been excellent, the crop fields remain green, and the grazing veld is lush. But we are now at a critical crop-growing stage where, in various regions, flowering or pollinating is starting, and thus, there is a need for more moisture to improve yields’ potential.

In conversations with farmers in Edenville — farmers from various regions of the Free State — all talked of the great start to the summer season and that conditions have been reasonably favourable on their farms.

But, they almost all stressed the need for rain within the next two weeks to ensure we realize the crop’s yield potential. The heat stress in the past few days has also increased the growing concern for summer crops. Meanwhile, the grazing veld condition remains favourable.

This Free State farmers’ reflections are not unique to the province; the likes of the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and other summer crop-producing provinces need rain this month to ensure the crop delivers a decent harvest.

Indeed, farmers have ensured that they plant a decent area of summer grains and oilseeds, which is encouraging as the start of the season had its fair share of challenges with worries of a potential El Niño state.

Fortunately, El Niño this year has been different; it has not led to the drought we saw in the 2015/16 season. If anything, the rain was excellent from the start of the season and thus supported the planting conditions for summer crops.

For example, as I have argued elsewhere, the recently released data by South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee puts the preliminary area plantings for summer grains and oilseeds at 4,41 million hectares, up by 0,4% y/y.

This increase is not limited to a few crops but across most summer crops except for soybeans, where plantings possibly fell by 10% y/y to 1,04 million hectares (which is still well above the 5-year average area of 867 240 hectares). The area plantings for other major grains, such as maize and sunflower seed, is also well above the 5-year average.

White maize plantings are forecast at 1,56 million hectares, up 2% y/y, with yellow maize planting at 1,08 million hectares, up 2%/y. This places the total commercial maize planting estimate at 2,64 million hectares, 2% more than the 2022/23 production season.

If we consider a 5-year average maize yield of 5,78 tonnes per hectare in an area of 2,64 million hectares, South Africa can have a maize harvest of 15,25 million tonnes. This crop would be well above South Africa’s 5-year production of 14,95 million tonnes, down 7% y/y.

Notably, a maize harvest of this size against South Africa’s annual maize consumption of roughly 12,00 million tonnes implies that the country would remain a net exporter of maize.

Similarly, applying a 5-year average soybean yield of 2,09 tonnes per hectare on an area planning of 1,04 million hectares would lead to a possible harvest of 2,17 million tonnes. While this would be 21% down y/y, it would be well above the 5-year average harvest. Importantly, it would mean South Africa remains a net exporter of soybeans.

Sunflower seed area is forecast to recover notably to 613 200 hectares in the 2023/24 production season, up 10% y/y. With a 5-year average yield of 1,37 tonnes per hectare, this area provides a possible harvest of 840 084 tonnes (up 16% y/y).

The ground nuts area is 41 200 hectares (up 32% y/y), with sorghum at 39 600 hectares (up 17% y/y) and dry beans at 39 400 hectares (up 8% y/y).

These data and the current crop conditions provide great confidence for yet another decent summer grain and oilseed harvest in South Africa. Still, things are uncertain; rainfall in the next few weeks is crucial to ensuring a better agricultural harvest.

Promisingly, the weather forecast for the last week of February shows prospects of heavy rain across most summer crop-growing regions of the country.

Also vital in the last week of this month is the Crop Estimate Committee’s first production forecast, which will likely provide further comfort about the possible crop size.


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

The South African poultry industry faces serious challenges

The South African poultry industry faces serious challenges

The South African poultry industry has had a profoundly challenging couple of years – having to operate in an environment of failing municipalities, power cuts issues, rising imports, higher feed prices, and avian influenza spread, amongst other challenges.

As an industry that accounts for a considerable share of the South African agricultural economy and a vital source of protein, one would imagine that the broader national effort would be at helping to support its recovery.

Indeed, the South African government has supported the industry over the years through trade policy. The  International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) has played a pivotal role in cushioning the poultry industry against unfair competition or dumping of poultry products.

Furthermore, the government launched a South African Poultry Master Plan in 2019 to boost inclusive growth in this industry.

COVID-19 and the growth constraining factors I highlighted above are some aspects that have slowed the implementation of the Master Plan, as the industry has almost been operating in “crisis” mode in its recovery path.

Still, the challenges that constrain inclusive growth in the industry persist. The associated costs of these broad problems also limit the participation of small players. If we care about inclusive growth of the poultry industry, we should focus on resolving issues of failing municipalities, power cuts,  and biosecurity, amongst other challenges.

Thus, I was puzzled by the idea that there is a Competition Commission inquiry into the poultry industry now, while the factors distorting progress in the industry remain unresolved.

We should first resolve these growth-inhibiting issues, assess if the pace of inclusion of small players won’t take off, and then think of these enquiries at such a stage.


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

Stating the obvious about South Africa’s 2023 summer crop harvest

Stating the obvious about South Africa’s 2023 summer crop harvest

Ok, folks, these figures don’t matter much for the outlook; our focus is on the 2023/24 crop currently on the ground and looking reasonably good after recent rains.

Still, the South African Crop Estimates Committee had an important meeting today to review and finalize the crop production figures of commercial white and yellow maize, sunflower seed, soybeans, groundnuts, and sorghum for 2023.

In essence, South Africa’s 2022/23  summer crop season was excellent, and here are the final production figures. The Crop Estimates Committee’s statement summarized their view as:

Comparing the final calculated crop figures with the numbers set by the CEC during November 2023, the size of the commercial maize crop is now 16,430 mill. tons, which is 0,21% or 34 775 tons more than the final crop estimate figure of 16,395 mill. tons.

 For white maize, the recalculated crop size is 8,505 mill. tons, which is 0,06% or 5 035 tons more than the final crop estimate figure, and for yellow maize the recalculated crop size is 7,925 mill. tons, which is 0,38% or 29 740 tons more than the final crop estimate figure.

 In the case of the commercial sunflower seed crop, the final calculated crop figure is 720 000 tons, which is 0,57% or 4 110 tons less than the final crop estimate figure of 724 110 tons.

The soybeans crop is 2,770 mill. tons (up by 0,53% or 14 700 tons), whilst the final groundnuts crop is 53 000 tons, which is 340 tons or 0,65% more than the final crop estimate figure. The sorghum crop also remained unchanged from the final crop estimate figure of 94 360 tons.”


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

SA could have a decent summer grains and oilseed harvest in the 2023/24 season

SA could have a decent summer grains and oilseed harvest in the 2023/24 season

South Africa could have yet another decent summer grains and oilseeds harvest in the 2023/24 production season.

The data recently released by the Crop Estimates Committee puts the preliminary area plantings for summer grains and oilseeds at 4,41 million hectares, up by 0,4% y/y (albeit down mildly from 4,48 million hectares of the intended area when the season started).

This increase is not limited to a few crops but across most summer crops except for soybeans, where plantings possibly fell by 10% y/y to 1,04 million hectares (which is still well above the 5-year average area of 867 240 hectares).

The area plantings for other major grains, such as maize and sunflower seed, is also well above the 5-year average.

White maize plantings are forecast at 1,56 million hectares, up 2% y/y, with yellow maize planting at 1,08 million hectares, up 2%/y. This places the total commercial maize planting estimate at 2,64 million hectares, 2% more than the 2022/23 production season.

If we consider a 5-year average maize yield of 5,78 tonnes per hectare in an area of 2,64 million hectares, South Africa can have a maize harvest of 15,25 million tonnes. This crop would be well above South Africa’s 5-year production of 14,95 million tonnes, although down 7% y/y.

Notably, a maize harvest of this size against South Africa’s annual maize consumption of roughly 12,00 million tonnes implies that the country would remain a net exporter of maize.

Similarly, applying a 5-year average soybean yield of 2,09 tonnes per hectare on an area planning of 1,04 million hectares would lead to a possible harvest of 2,17 million tonnes. While this would be 21% down y/y, it would be well above the 5-year average harvest. Importantly, it would mean South Africa remains a net exporter of soybeans.

Sunflower seed area is forecast to recover notably to 613 200 hectares in the 2023/24 production season, up 10% y/y. With a 5-year average yield of 1,37 tonnes per hectare, this area provides a possible harvest of 840 084 tonnes (up 16% y/y).

The ground nuts area is 41 200 hectares (up 32% y/y), with sorghum at 39 600 hectares (up 17% y/y) and dry beans at 39 400 hectares (up 8% y/y).

The weather has remained favourable since the start of the season, with widespread rainfall across most regions of South Africa. Thus, we remain optimistic that yields will likely reach the average levels. The one province that hasn’t received as many showers as the rest of the country is the North West. Still, the crop looks decent in the province.

With the weather prospects for the coming weeks still reasonably favourable across the country, we are compelled to believe that South Africa could have yet another decent summer grain and oilseed harvest in the 2023/24 production season.


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

SA summer crop conditions are still in fair condition but need rain

Positive maize production prospects

It is encouraging to see the colleagues at the Pretoria office of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) placing South Africa’s 2023/24 commercial maize production prospects at 15,2 million tonnes, well above the long-term average of 13,6 million tonnes (albeit down 7% y/y).

The USDA colleagues are worried about the yield potential of the maize crop in the North West and reasonably optimistic about the crop in other provinces. The North West hasn’t received as much rain as other provinces. Still, conditions aren’t as terrible there.

South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee released the estimate for area plantings on Tuesday, January 30. This data will help us have a better view of the crop size. Still, considering the excellent rains we have had so far, we can all be optimistic about South Africa’s maize production prospects in the 2023/24 season.

If we have a decent crop of over 15,0 million tonnes, South Africa would meet its annual maize consumption of about 12,0 million tonnes and remain a net exporter of maize in the 2024/25 marketing year starting in May 2024.

These data bode well for the country’s possible moderating consumer food inflation in 2024.


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

SA summer crop conditions are still in fair condition but need rain

South Africa’s agricultural conditions are broadly favourable

When the 2023/24 agricultural season started we feared production conditions would become more challenging than we have seen in the past few seasons. The weather had shifted from a prolonged period of La Niña conditions, which came with a lot of rainfall, to an El Niño, which typically brings drought in Southern Africa.

However, the rainfall conditions in the early part of the season are not living up to expectations. There was heavy rainfall at the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 throughout most summer rainfall regions. The only province that has not received as much rainfall is the North West.

Against a backdrop of better-than-expected conditions, farmers could plant their usual crops in provinces Free State, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The North West experienced delays in plantings due to slightly delayed rainfall compared with other provinces.

The irrigation regions, such as the Northern Cape, also planted on time, benefiting from higher dam levels and reduced load-shedding during the summer holidays to support crop conditions.

The latest Grain SA survey shows that crop conditions in provinces that received early rainfall are favourable, and farmers’ plantings of most summer crops may have reached the intended area at the start of the season. The farmers in some of these provinces indicated that they now expect above-average yields.

The significant risk that farmers most fear is the possibility of hail, especially in areas such as the eastern Free State, which is prone to hail. Still, by mid-January hail had not caused much damage in these areas, and the crops were in decent condition.

Some farmers in these areas also feared that a midsummer drought would damage harvests, particularly the late-planted crops. However, with the SA Weather Service expecting rainfall to continue until March, we are optimistic that drought won’t be a challenge. The crops will need significant rainfall in about February, primarily during pollination time.

Ample harvest

Beyond pollination, we believe the crops would still be in good condition even if rainfall slows in the central and the eastern regions. There remains a risk of dryness in the country’s western areas, particularly the North West.

In its Seasonal Climate Watch report of December 19, the SA Weather Service underscored the point of possible dryness in the western regions, stating that the “multimodel rainfall forecast indicates mostly below-normal rainfall over most of the country during January to May, except for the central and eastern coastal areas, indicating a higher likelihood of above-normal rainfall”.

The reality has thus far proved to be better than the weather service’s projections, as there has been continued favourable rainfall countrywide since the start of January, and it has not been limited to the coastal regions. If the showers remain favourable for the rest of the month and to the end of February across the country, we can confidently expect another ample agricultural harvest.

At the start of the 2023/24 summer crop production season, farmers intended to plant 4.5-million hectares of land, 2% more than the previous season. Given the feedback from the Grain SA survey, we believe farmers met their expected planting area in most provinces. If there are any reductions in an area, it is likely to be in the white maize regions of the North West.

At end-January, the crop estimates committee will release its preliminary area planted estimate for summer grains in 2024. This data will provide a better sense of the planted area. The data for the next month will provide a view of the possible size of the harvest.

These favourable production conditions also support grazing veld for livestock, vegetable production, fruit production and other agricultural activities.

Written for and first appeared on Business Day.


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

South Africa has a decent winter crop harvest

South Africa has a decent winter crop harvest

South Africa’s 2023/24 winter crop season has turned out better than some feared. The data released at the end of December 2023 by the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) painted a positive picture of South Africa’s winter crop harvest.

In its fifth production estimate for the 2023/24 season, the CEC kept the wheat harvest estimate unchanged from the previous month, at 2,15 million tonnes. This is 2% up from the last season’s crop. The only concern some producers had was the crop quality following heavy rains earlier in the season. Still, we have not heard many complaints so far.

Broadly, the provinces behind the current robust national wheat harvest forecast are the Western Cape (53% of the overall harvest), Northern Cape, Free State and Limpopo. Admittedly, while the Northern Cape and Free State are still amongst the leading wheat producers, their expected harvest is less than the 2022/23 season.

The expected large harvest in the Western Cape and Limpopo overshadows the decline in harvest in other provinces. There are also likely decent wheat harvests in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West regions.

The harvest of this crop is nearly complete. Farmers had delivered 1,7 million tonnes of wheat to the commercial silos in the first week of January 2024. The rest of the deliveries will likely follow in the coming weeks. The deliveries of other winter crops are also nearly complete.

The expected winter wheat crop of 2,15 million tonnes is well above the 10-year average harvest of 1,80 million. Suppose there are no significant changes in the crop forecast in the coming months. In that case, South Africa will likely need to import about 1,60 million tonnes to meet domestic consumption in the 2023/24 season (down from the forecast of 1,68 million tonnes in the 2022/23 season).

Furthermore, the 2023/24 canola crop was unchanged from November estimates and is at a record 237 450 tonnes (up 13% y/y). The annual increase is also due to increased plantings and expected better yields.

Regarding barley and oats, however, the CEC also kept their harvest forecast unchanged from last month at 360 220 tonnes and 36 200 tonnes, respectively. The recent floods damaged these crops more than wheat and canola. Notably, barley reportedly has quality issues due to the floods earlier in the season.

In sum, while the overall crop size is encouraging, and no major wheat quality issues have been reported so far, this remains a significant concern to us and would influence the import requirements for the season we currently have at a consecutive estimate of 1,60 million tonnes.

The quality challenges in barley will also present significant financial pressure on farmers, which is worth monitoring, particularly from agribusinesses and financial institutions that have clients in the barley production regions.

Overall, the South African winter crop season has turned out better from a volume perspective than some may have feared days after the Western Cape floods last year.


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

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This