• The 2018/19 winter wheat is likely to be one of South Africa’s large harvests, thanks to favourable weather conditions and an expansion in area planted. The rainfall and cold temperatures experienced in the past two weeks in the Western Cape province could boost the yields in most regions. The feedback from farmers in most parts of the province has been quite positive in terms of yield expectations. 

  • Nothing can stand in the way of good news, especially if the good news is “food”. I am currently in Somerset West, Western Cape attending an annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa and had planned to write a brief piece about a few aspects I picked up from the research papers presented here today.

  • The wheat import tariff rate of R298.46 per tonne that triggered on 14 August 2018 was finally published in a government gazette on 28 September 2018, making it an official rate. This is a decline from a previous rate of R640.54 per tonne.

  • Our recent interaction with winter wheat farmers in various parts of the country has been quite encouraging. In the major producing province, Western Cape, the crop has matured and generally in good shape with expectations of good yields in most regions – all thanks to rainfall received in the past couple of weeks.

  • South Africa is a net importer of wheat, which means that developments in the global environment tend to influence the local market. Yesterday’s trade session was no different, the SAFEX wheat spot price recorded good gains in line with the Chicago wheat prices, closing at R4 393 per tonne.

  • October 16th is World Food Day and maybe the most fitting thing to do would be to boast about South Africa’s progress in terms of food security, having been ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2017 Global Food Security Index the top in Africa.

  • October 16 is World Food Day and perhaps the most fitting thing to do would be to boast about South Africa’s progress in terms of food security, having been ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2017 Global Food Security Index the top in Africa. 

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 12 forecast Australian wheat production and exports in 2018-19 to be the lowest since 2007-08.

  • Climate change is coming like a freight train, or a rising tide.

  • The winter wheat harvest process is slowly gaining momentum in the Western Cape. The most recent data from SAGIS shows that 78 731 tonnes of wheat were delivered to commercial silos in the week of 26 October 2018, well above the initial deliveries of 7 716 tonnes.

  • Grain producers in the Swartland, Overberg and Southern Cape suffered considerable damage due to unnatural weather conditions that brought stormy winds to the areas. While already harvesting winter crops, producers’ expectations for an above average harvest yielded disappointment.

  • Grain producers could have an extra revenue stream if a construction project proceeds in Kansas.

  • Just a couple of years ago this meteorologist had his hands slapped for trying to make an issue out of world wheat production problems. The word was that there was too much wheat in the world and that a focus on that crop was a waste of time.

  •  World wheat flour trade for 2018-19 was revised downward by 100,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent (less than 1%) by the International Grains Council (IGC) but is still in line with last year’s estimated total of 17.1 million tonnes.

  • The national Crop Estimate Committee kept its estimate for South Africa’s wheat crop unchanged from last month at 1.86 million tonnes.

  • Researchers from Aarhus University have contributed to creating new knowledge about resistance to yellow rust, which is a serious fungal disease in wheat. The results can have global importance.

  • It is year-end and therefore an appropriate time to reflect on the African continent’s agricultural performance, particularly grains and oilseeds which are staple foods, and key inputs in the animal feed sector. The 2018/19 production season has been confronted by unfavourable weather conditions in the sub-Saharan region which has negatively affected the planting activity and growing conditions of crops and, by extension, the continent expected harvest. The International Grains Council (IGC) forecasts Africa’s 2018/19 grains production at 154 million tonnes, down by a percentage point from the previous season (Figure 1). In this context, grains include maize, barley, wheat, sorghum and oats, while oilseeds refer to soybeans. The continent’s 2018/19 soybean production is estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, unchanged from the previous season. Although the import status differs across countries, the African continent will remain a net-importer of major grains and oilseeds such as wheat, maize, soybeans and rice in 2018/19.

     Africa’s 2018/19 wheat imports are estimated at 49 million tonnes, down by 6% from the previous season owing to anticipation for a slight uptick in production in countries such as Algeria, Morocco and South Africa, albeit the continent’s overall grain production expected to decline. Although volumes differ from the previous season, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan will remain Africa’s leading wheat importers in the 2018/19 season, collectively accounting for 74% of the continent’s wheat imports, according to data from the IGC. Africa is an important player in the global wheat market as it accounts for nearly a third of imports in 2018/19.

    The African continent’s 2018/19 maize imports are estimated at 22 million tonnes, which is slightly above the previous season’s harvest. The North African countries, namely, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are the key importers, accounting for 82% of the expected imports. Within the sub-Saharan region, the leading maize importers in 2018/19 are Kenya and Zimbabwe. In terms of soybeans, Africa’s soybean imports could amount to 4.6 million tonnes in the 2018/19 season, up by 12% year-on-year. About 78% could be imported by Egypt and the rest spread across the continent. In addition, Africa’s 2018/19 rice imports could amount to 19 million tonnes, up by 12% from the previous season. Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Ghana and Mozambique will remain the key importers.

    Domestic focus – maize trade; rice market; crop conditions and weather prospects
    What role can South Africa play in the continent’s maize market.
    While some countries on the continent will have tight maize supplies, South Africa is one of the few countries which could remain a net exporter in the 2018/19 marketing year which ends in April 2019. South Africa has thus far exported 1.6 million tonnes of maize, which equates to 73% of the seasonal export forecast of 2.2 million tonnes . But there have not been any exports to Africa’s leading maize importers (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya and Zimbabwe) in the 2018/19 marketing year. A large share of maize was exported to Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Italy and BNLS (Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland) countries. If there are any exports in the coming months, it will probably be to Zimbabwe. In markets such as Kenya, South Africa’s presence could be limited partly due to restrictions on the importation of genetically modified maize and competition from Mexico, Uganda and Ukraine. More than 80% of South Africa’s maize production is now genetically modified. Also, we do not foresee maize exports to Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia as these countries typically import maize from Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, Romania and the United States, which all currently have sufficient supplies for exports.

    SA rice market
    South Africa accounts for 6% of the expected 19 million tonnes of rice imports into Africa in the 2018/19 season. This is about 1.1 million tonnes, up by 10% from the previous season driven by an uptick in consumption . In the first three quarters of this year, about 704 718 tonnes had already reached the South African shores. About 92% of this originated from Thailand and India, and the rest from Italy, Pakistan, Vietnam and Brazil, amongst other suppliers.

    Worth noting is that South Africa does not have a conducive climate for rice production and therefore the country imports all of its rice consumption. The imported rice typically includes; paddy, brown, semi-milled, and broken rice. Similar to what is transpiring this year, in 2017, about 77% of rice was imported from Thailand, with 17% from India and the rest form the United States, China, Vietnam, Pakistan and Uruguay, amongst others. On average, about 101 854 tonnes or 10% of the imported rice every year is re-exported to the neighbouring countries, namely Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and Zambia

    From a supply perspective, the global rice market is in good shape. The 2018/19 global rice production could reach a record 491 million tonnes, marginally up from the previous season, according to data from IGC. The key contributing countries to the expected increase are India, Vietnam, Thailand, United States, China, Bangladesh and the Philippines. These are same countries that supply to South Africa. The benefit of an uptick in global rice production is clear on prices which have softened in the recent months compared to the beginning of the year across all the aforementioned countries. This is all beneficial to rice importing countries such as South Africa.

    Current crop conditions
     Although this month started with an optimistic message from the South African Weather Service indicating a possibility of above-normal rainfall in the summer crop growing areas of the country between December 2018 and February 2019, most parts of the country are still dry. The expected rainfall last week did not materialise in most regions, thus planting activity has not progressed in the central and western parts of the country. It is only a few areas of the eastern Free State and Mpumalanga that received very light showers, with the highest being 11 millimetres in the Frankfort area.
    Therefore, planting has thus far largely advanced only in the eastern parts of South Africa which received higher rainfall at the beginning of the season. But these areas are not in good condition as the recent heat wave and drier weather conditions started negatively affecting newly planted crops. In terms of crop distribution, these are areas that predominantly produce yellow maize and soybeans. Meanwhile, the western regions of the country which largely produce white maize and sunflower seed have not seen progress in planting due to persistent drier weather conditions. The only crop that has been planted in these areas so far is cotton as it copes somewhat better with drier conditions compared maize, sunflower seeds and other crops.

    Nonetheless, the precipitation outlook for this month shows rainfall between 20 and 70 millimetres in the summer crop growing areas of South Africa.If this materialises, then the aforementioned production conditions

    Exports/Imports could change, although some areas are already outside the optimal planting window of most crops.

    We will closely monitor the developments on the weather front but must mention that the past few weeks’ predictions proved fruitless.
    Be that as it may, we have not changed our production expectations from what we reported a few weeks back . While the harvest is expected to be lower than the previous season in the case of maize and sunflower seed, South Africa’s supplies will still be at comfortable levels due to large stocks from the 2017/18 production season, and also the fact that the expected crop is higher than annual consumption in the case of maize.

    Between October and February, which is planting to pollination, the weather becomes an important factor in the South African grains and oilseeds market and, to some extent, amongst the major drivers of prices. This has been the case in the past few weeks, but the exchange rate fluctuation and developments in the global agricultural market also influenced the SAFEX market . Overall, while the activity will possibly slow in the market as the festive season approaches, the above-mentioned factors could remain the key drivers of SAFEX prices in the coming weeks. AGBIZ 

  •  A group of European researchers have found that current breeding programs and cultivar selection practices in Europe do not provide the needed resilience to climate change.

  • The International Grains Council on Jan. 24 issued its Grain Market Report for January in which it lowered its forecast for 2018-19 world soybean production and raised its outlook for the 2018-19 corn crop. The IGC also provided other updated supply-and-demand forecasts for those crops for the current marketing year.  

  • In the case of a hard Brexit, the import of grain from the United Kingdom (UK) will be considerably more expensive.