Despite an inauspicious start to the growing season, South Africa’s corn crop, the largest in Africa, looks headed for a bumper harvest for a third year in a row.
A solid corn crop would be good news for all of southern Africa, which relies on South African production to meet import needs. South Africa produced a record 16.9 million tonnes of corn last year, of which nearly 20% was exported, mostly to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and other neighboring countries. Gro expects that 2022 production could be in line or greater than last year, as strong yields offset lower planted acreage.
South Africa’s corn regions suffered exceptionally heavy rains during December planting, resulting in a 5.3% reduction in corn planted acreage. Precipitation amounts have returned to normal so far in 2022, and soil moisture levels currently are quite favorable.
NDVI, an important measure of vegetative health, is currently at its second-highest reading in 20 years, as shown by Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator, which can highlight growing conditions weighted for specific crops. South Africa’s corn crops are in the pollination stage, making growing conditions this month critically important.
Corn, which is harvested starting in late May, represents 90% of South Africa’s grain production, and the crop is important to the country’s food security and export dollars. Three provinces in the north produce most of South Africa’s corn. But during planting in December, rainfall in Free State province was 58% above the 10-year average. In the provinces of North West and Mpumalanga, rainfall was 73% and 40% above average, respectively.
South Africa produces both white corn, a domestic food staple, and yellow corn, used mainly for animal feed. In years of poor production, the region is forced to import mainly from Brazil and Argentina, an especial burden on African economies whose currencies have depreciated sharply.
Global corn prices also are close to their highest levels in years as South American crops are headed for substantial production declines this year. The La Niña global weather event, which is bringing drought conditions and reduced yields to South America, typically brings excess rainfall to many parts of Africa.