The revised area and first production forecast and summer crop estimate for 2020 was recently released by the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC).

Commercial maize

The revised area estimate for maize is 2 599 800ha, which is 13,01% or 299 300ha more than the 2 300 500ha planted for the previous season, and 2,54% or 64 500ha more than the preliminary area estimate of 2 535 300ha released in January 2020.

The expected commercial maize crop is 14 560 160 tons, which is 29,14% or 3 285 160 tons more than the 11 275 000 tons of the previous season (2019). The yield for maize is 5,60tons/ha.

White maize

The area estimate for white maize is 1 596 300ha, which represents an increase of 22,94% or 297 900ha compared to the 1 298 400ha planted last season. The production forecast of white maize is 8 286 825 tons, which is 49,45% or 2 741 825 tons more than the 5 545 000 tons of last season. The yield for white maize is 5,19 tons/ha.

Yellow maize

In the case of yellow maize, the area estimate is 1 003 500ha, which is 0,14% or 1 400ha more than the 1 002 100ha planted last season. The yellow maize production forecast is 6 273 335 tons, which is 9,48% or 543 335 tons more than the 5 730 000 tons of last season. The yield for yellow maize is 6,25tons/ha.

Sunflower seed

The revised area estimate for sunflower seed is 500 300ha, which is 2,92% or 15 050ha fewer than the 515 350ha planted the previous season. The production forecast for sunflower seed is 699 130 tons, which is 3,12% or 21 130 tons more than the 678 000 tons of the previous season. The expected yield is 1,40tons/ha.

Other crops

It is estimated that 705 000ha have been planted to soya beans, which represents a decrease of 3,49% or 25 500ha compared to the 730 500ha planted last season. The production forecast is 1 242 950 tons, which is 6,20% or 72 605 tons more than the 1 170 345 tons of the previous season. The expected yield is 1,76tons/ha.

For groundnuts, the area estimate is 37 500ha, which is 87,03% or 17 450ha more than the 20 050ha planted for the previous season. The expected crop is 54 390 tons – which is 180,36% or 34 990 tons more than the 19 400 tons of last season. The expected yield is 1,45tons/ha.

The area estimate for sorghum decreased by 10,30% or 5 200ha, from 50 500ha to 45 300ha against the previous season. The production forecast for sorghum is 135 090 tons, which is 6,37% or 8 090 tons more than the 127 000 tons of the previous season. The expected yield is 2,98tons/ha.

For dry beans, the area estimate is 50 150ha, which is 15,43% or 9 150ha fewer than the 59 300ha planted for the previous season. The production forecast is 72 910 tons, which is 9,88% or 6 555 tons more than the 66 355 tons of the previous season. The expected yield is 1,45tons/ha.

Agbiz comments on the summer crop estimate

Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), says that 2020 promises to be a good year for South Africa’s agricultural sector, at least from a production point of view.

The data released by the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) show that South Africa’s 2019/20 summer crops production could increase by 26% year-on-year to 16,8 million tons. While this is still the first estimate for this season, with eight more to follow, if it materialises, this could be the second-largest summer crops harvest on record after the 2016/17 harvest. The major gains are on maize, soya beans and sunflower seed as illustrated in Exhibit 1.

The 2019/20 maize, soya beans and sunflower seed harvest are forecast at 14,6 million tons, 1,2 million tons, and 699 130 million tons. This is respectively up by 29%, 6% and 3% from the previous season. The increase is mainly supported by an expansion in area planted in the case of maize and expected improvements in yields on the back of favourable weather conditions.

The maize production estimate is well above ours of 13,7 million tons, while the soya bean and sunflower seed estimate are below ours of 1,5 million tons and 761 070 tons. The variation can largely be explained by adjustments in area plantings, which for maize was revised up and soya bean and sunflower plantings slashed from the preliminary estimates released on 29 January 2020.

Improved soil moisture

Weather conditions have generally been favourable over the past few weeks with a fair amount of rainfall, which improved soil moisture across many regions of the country. As a result, the crop is in good condition, and thus, we are convinced that the CEC estimates are plausible.

In the case of maize, the data essentially means that South Africa would remain a nett exporter in the 2020/21 marketing year, which starts in May 2020. However, Southern African maize import needs could outpace the previous year, with Zimbabwe in need of maize supplies to such an extent that the country lifted a ban on the importation of genetically modified maize, which eases access for South African maize exporters.

What’s more, a maize harvest of 14,6 million tons would enable South Africa to export maize beyond the continent to other typical markets such as Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea, who are not prominent in the current marketing year.

Unlike maize, however, South Africa could remain a nett importer of soya bean products, specifically oil cake, and a nett importer of sunflower oil, irrespective of the potential improvement in the harvest. This is caused by the growing domestic demand for these particular oilseed products.

Please note that the second production forecast for summer field crops for 2020 will be released on 25 March 2020. – CEC report

Click here to read the previous summer field crop report.