South Africa Corn: Acreage Stable but Output Upwards


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The USDA forecasts South Africa’s Corn area will stay at 2.9 million ha in MY 2023/24. With a bumper crop of more than 16.0 MMT expected in MY 2022/23, the bearish outlook on local Corn prices will limit an expansion in the area to be planted with Corn later in 2023 for MY 2023/24. In addition, Post foresees that the positive trend in soybean plantings will continue in the MY 2023/24, limiting a possible expansion in the Corn area.

South Africa has experienced an upsurge in soybean plantings during the past 20 years that enabled farmers to plant a 30-year high of 4.4 million ha with summer rainfall field crops in MY 2022/23. Corn and sunflower area stayed relatively flat during the past 20 years, while there was a definite decline in peanuts and sorghum plantings. However, South Africa expanded its soybean area by almost 9-fold during the past 20 years as farmers developed an improved affinity to use soybeans as a rotational crop with Corn coupled with the availability of better-yielding cultivars.

In addition, the local demand for soybeans improved through extensive investments in oilseed processing plants. In MY 2022/23, farmers planted a record soybean area of 1.1 million ha, an upsurge of 24 percent from the previous marketing year, surpassing the yellow Corn area for the first time. Post foresees that this positive trend in soybean plantings will continue at a less aggressive pace in MY 2023/24 but still deter expansion in the Corn area. While much of the surge in soy plantings MY 2022/23 was driven by higher input costs, softening prices may lead some producers back to Corn.

Assuming a 3-year average yield and normal weather conditions, South Africa’s MY 2023/24 could reach 15.8 MMT on 2.9 million ha, slightly lower than the expected Corn crop of 16.2 MMT in MY 2022/23. Regarding MY 2022/23, South Africa’s grain production was off to a decent start with above average rains over most of the summer rainfall production area during November and December 2022, which boosted crop plantings. Though excessive rains in some parts of the Mpumalanga, the eastern Free State and Kwazulu-Natal provinces delayed planting operations outside the optimal planting window (from October to mid-November), favorable conditions in January with warmer weather and sunnier days provided conducive growing conditions for the developing crop.

However, in small pockets of the grain-producing area, excessive heat damaged the Corn crop. The warmer weather was followed by above-average rains in February over most of the summer rainfall production area, boosting plant growth and positively affecting anticipated yields. This was clear when South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) released its first commercial production estimate for summer rainfall crops on February 28, 2023.

South African Corn Yield

According to the CEC, South Africa could record its third-largest commercial Corn crop in MY 2022/23 at 15.6 MMT on 2.6 million ha. The CEC estimates the national average yield of 6.0 MT/ha. The commercial white Corn crop is estimated at 8.2 MMT, and the commercial yellow Corn crop at 7.4 MMT. On February 9, 2023, the CEC finalized South Africa’s commercial Corn crop in MY 2021/22 at 15.5 MMT after total producer deliveries for the marketing year and on-farm usage were considered. This means South Africa’s total Corn crop, including commercial and subsistence producers, for MY 2021/22 reached 16.1 MMT on 3.0 million ha at a national average yield of 5.4 MT/ha. This represents the fourth largest Corn crop ever produced in South Africa, while the commercial yellow Corn crop at 7.6 MMT with an average yield of 7.2 MT/ha was the second largest on record.

Other sources: USDA

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