South Africa's winter wheat harvest process likely to continue with minimal interruptions in the next few weeks

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While light showers in some parts of the Western Cape might have somewhat slowed the harvest process over the weekend, the pace could pick up within the next two weeks due to expected cool and drier weather conditions in the province.

 The harvest progress made last week will be reflected on the producer deliveries data which are due for release at midday tomorrow. In the week of 26 October 2018, the producer deliveries amounted to 78 731 tonnes, well above the initial deliveries of 7 716 tonnes.

The feedback from farmers in areas that have already harvested has been fairly positive, suggesting that yields are mostly average-to-above average. This supports the Crop Estimate Committee’s view of higher yields this season and an overall harvest of 1.86 million tonnes, up by 21 percent from the 2017/18 production season.

The Western Cape is central to this optimism. After all, the decline in 2017/18 season’s wheat production was largely due to the poor harvest in the Western Cape, hence its recovery will have a notable impact on the national harvest. To reiterate a point made yesterday, the Western Cape accounts for 49 percent of the estimated 1.86 million tonnes of winter wheat in the 2018/19 production season.

 The aforementioned production improvement bodes well for South Africa’s agricultural trade balance as it will lead to a decline in wheat imports. Assuming that the aforementioned harvest projection materialises, South Africa’s wheat imports could fall by a third from last year’s volume to 1.4 million tonnes.

 On the global front, the USDA indicated that farmers could lift wheat plantings in 2019/20 season by 9 percent year on year to 17.4 million hectares due to attractive prices on the back of tight global supplies. To recap, the 2018/19 global wheat production estimated at 729 million tonnes, down by 5 percent from the previous season, according to data from the International Grains Council. The losses are mainly in the EU, the Black Sea and Australia, amongst other countries – all underpinned by unfavourable weather conditions earlier in the season.