by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – DESPITE the expected drop in regional maize production in 2019, worsened by the dreadful Cyclone Idai, the supply during the 2019/20 marketing year is projected to remain average due largely to carryover stocks from last year’s bumper harvest in South Africa.
This allays fears of widespread shortages of the staple crop in the bloc after the cyclone’s devastating impact on the agricultural sectors of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
As a result of flooding and high-speed winds following Idai, over 700 000 hectares (ha) of crops were lost in central Mozambique and about 30 000 ha damaged in southern Malawi at the start of the harvest period.
In eastern Zimbabwe, most areas remain inaccessible but initial estimates indicate roughly 24 000 ha of crops have been destroyed.
However, Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), projected South Africa’s overwhelming harvest in 2018 would offset shortages.
FEWS NET stated that on another positive note, maize grain prices were trending near or slightly above the five-year average across the region.
This trend is projected to continue in most areas, and prices are not anticipated to reach the high levels observed in 2016.
However, maize prices are expected to be well above average in drought-affected areas with localised supply deficits, flood-affected areas of Mozambique, and in Zimbabwe where both drought and macroeconomic issues are of concern.
The Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (AGBIZ) stated that if South Africa harvested at least 10 million tonnes of maize this season, which will be added to an opening stock of 3 million tonnes when the 2019/20 marketing year starts on May 1, then there could be sufficient supplies in the domestic market, to cover the country’s annual consumption of about 10 million tonnes.
Thus, the organisation forecasts South Africa’s maize exports at 1,1 million tonnes in the 2019/20 marketing year.
These exports will largely be destined for Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini.
“There might also be exports to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, which had a share of their maize fields damaged by the recent cyclone,” said Wandile Sihlobo, AGBIZ chief economist.
He noted the three countries would collectively have to import more than 1 million tonnes of maize in the 2019/2020 marketing year.
– CAJ News