South Africa may need to import almost half of its domestic corn needs less than two years after being a net exporter as a drought exacerbated by the El Niño weather phenomenon disrupts the main producing areas, according to the largest growers’ association.
The country could import as much as five million metric tonnes for the marketing year through April 2017, Jannie de Villiers, chief executive officer of Grain SA, has said. Domestic demand for the current year is forecast at 10,5 million tonnes, the National Agricultural Marketing Council said in November.
“We’re past the point where we should call this a ‘disappointing’ crop,” De Villiers said. “This is now a disaster. We should start gearing ourselves to import five million tonnes.”
The worst drought since 1992 means that growers in the continent’s biggest corn producer will probably sow the smallest area with the grain since 2011, the government’s Crop Estimates Committee said on October 27. Since then, many parts of South Africa have experienced record temperatures and little rain.
In the year through April 2015, South Africa’s net corn exports reached 1,9 million tonnes. Reuters reported earlier that the current crop may fall to as little as five million tonnes. A crop that size would be the smallest since the 1995 marketing year, according to data on the South African Grain Information Service’s website.
Farmers in the corn-producing provinces of the Free State and North West have missed a deadline of December 31 to plant because of the drought, according to De Villiers. The two regions accounted for 64% of the nation’s crop in 2014, the Crop Estimates Committee said.
The price of white corn, used to make a staple food known as pap, has more than doubled since the beginning of last year, while the yellow variety that’s mainly used as animal feed has climbed 63%.