South Africa, the continent’s largest producer of corn, is expected to see steady growth in production next year as above-average rainfall, due to La Niña, is anticipated during the growing season.
South Africa produced its second-biggest corn crop on record of 15.4 million tonnes in 2019/20, driven by greater acreage and near-record yields. The 2019/20 crop was 36% higher than the 2018/19 crop of 11.3 million tonnes. Planting is currently underway. If adequate rains fall during the pollination and grain-filling stages, 2020/21 production could reach record yields, similar to those of 2017/18 when the last La Niña event hit the region.
Corn represents 90% of South Africa’s grain production and is vital to the country’s own domestic needs and export dollars. The three largest corn producing states are Free State, Mpumalanga, and North West.
The optimal planting dates for corn run from mid-October to mid-November for the central to eastern regions and from mid-November to the end of December for the western regions.
Expected above-average seasonal rainfall during January and February when the crop is in the critical pollination and grain-filling stages will be closely monitored to anticipate yields.
South Africa produces both white and yellow corn. White corn, in the form of meal, is the staple food for many South African households, while yellow corn is used as the primary ingredient for animal feed, especially in the broiler industry.
South Africa has been known to import corn from Brazil and Argentina to satisfy domestic needs during years of low production. A bumper South Africa crop will allow the country to avoid importing, which is important because of currently tight South American supplies.
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