Wandile Sihlobo, agricultural economist, at Agribusiness Research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) of South Africa, comments on Nigeria’s maize production levels.

Last year I boasted about South Africa’s contribution to sub-Saharan maize production, after this country contributed nearly 20% of total production in the sub region for the 2017/18 season. Expanding on my theme, I compared South Africa’s maize yields to those of the then second biggest producer in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria.

South Africa produced nearly 20% of sub-Saharan maize on a relatively small area of 2.6 million hectares. Nigeria harvested 14% of the sub region’s maize off a planting platform of 6.5 million hectares.

The rise of maize production in South Africa can be attributed to technological advancement, and particularly to the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, a practice adopted in the early 2000s. This has had great benefits in terms of yields and input cost savings.

But this year’s drought in the western parts of South Africa has caused a change in sub-Saharan maize production distributions. Nigeria is now poised to overtake South Africa and become the region’s largest maize producer in the 2018/19 production season.

The most recent data from the International Grains Council put Nigeria’s 2018/19 maize production estimate at 11 million tons, which equates to a 16.1% share of sub-Saharan Africa’s maize harvest. Meanwhile, South Africa’s 2018/19 preliminary maize production estimate varies at figures between 10.4 million tons and 10.7 million tons.

It should be noted, however, that Nigeria’s dominance in maize production will be short-lived as its yields have not improved. The country rose to the first spot due to a decline in South Africa’s maize plantings.

To be clear, Nigeria’s 2018/19 maize yield is about 1.6 tons a hectare, while South Africa’s average yield estimate is 4.6 tons a hectare. This is according to Agbiz, and the International Grains Council estimates. – Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz