Wandile Sihlobo, head of economic and agribusiness intelligence at Agbiz, shares highlights in his update on agricultural commodity markets.


The new season maize crop is generally in good condition following recent rainfall in most parts of the country. The weather forecast for the next two weeks promises a possibility of over 50 millimetres of rainfall across the maize belt which should further improve soil moisture and therefore benefit the crop.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revised its estimate for South Africa’s 2017/2018 maize production up by 4% from last month (February) to 13.0 million tons. This is, however, lower than the previous season’s harvest of 17.5 million tons due to a decline in area planted and expected lower yields in some areas.

The USDA estimate covers both commercial and non-commercial maize production, while the National Crop Estimates Committee’s (CEC) estimates only cover commercial production.

The CEC forecasts South Africa’s 2017/2018 maize production at 12.2 million tons. While not directly comparable to the USDA estimate because of the aforementioned reasons, it is 6% lower than the USDA’s estimates.


With South Africa being a net importer of wheat, the major developments in the global market tend to influence the domestic environment. Friday’s (9 March 2018) session was no different; the spot price was under pressure due to a decline in Chicago wheat prices.

The global wheat prices were underpinned by a slight upward revision in 2017/2018 global wheat production. The USDA forecasts the global crop at 759 million tons, which is now 3% higher than the 2016/2017 harvest due to an uptick in wheat production in Russia and India.

The USDA forecasts Russia’s 2017/2018 wheat production at 85 million tons, up by 39% from the previous season owing to an increase in area planted, as well as higher yields. In the same season, India’s wheat production is estimated at 98 million tons, up by 14% from the previous season. This somewhat compensated for the decline in output in other key wheat producing countries such as the United States, Australia and Canada. The 2017/2018 global wheat ending stock was revised up by a percentage point from February 2019 to 269 million tons. This is 11% higher than the previous season.

From a demand perspective, the 2017/2018 global wheat imports are estimated at 182 million tons, slightly higher than the previous month’s (February) estimate of 180 million tons and 7% higher than the previous season. Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are set to be amongst the key importers.

Sub-Saharan Africa is also amongst the key wheat importing regions with 2017/2018 wheat imports estimated at 23 million tons, up by 7% from the previous season. The leading buyers within this region are Nigeria, Sudan, South Africa and Kenya.

Soya beans:

The areas around Bethlehem, Fouriesburg, Heilbron, Harrismith, Lindley, Ventersburg, Senekal, Morgenzon, Vereeniging, Balfour, Bethal, Davel, Delmas, Greylingstad, Kriel, Leandra, Nigel and Standerton received light showers towards the end of last week which is conducive for the soya bean crop. The crop is generally in good condition across the country and should benefit from expected rainfall during the next two weeks.

In global markets, the USDA revised its 2017/2018 global soya bean production estimates down by 2% from February 2018 to 341 million tons this month (March). This is 3% lower than the previous season due to expected lower yields in Argentina and Paraguay.

Argentina’s 2017/2018 soya bean production was revised down by 13% from February 2018 to 47 million tons. This is a 19% decline from the previous season. The drier weather conditions that were experienced in the past few weeks across the country led to lower yields, thus leading to a reduction in production.

Contrary to Argentinean developments, Brazil’s 2017/2018 soya bean production estimate was revised up further by 1% from the previous month to 113 million tons. This is now just 1% lower than the 2016/2017 harvest. The upward revision is mainly on the back of higher yields in most areas.  The production estimates for other key soya bean producing countries such as the US and China was left unchanged from the previous month at 120 million and 14 million tons, respectively.

Sunflower seed:

The weather remains a key focus across sunflower seed growing areas as the crop is still in its early stages of development and requires moisture. The sunflower seed crops experienced dry and cool weather conditions for the most part of last week (ending 9 March). This is with the exception of areas around Hertzogville, Hoopstad, Orkney, Viljoenskroon, Derby, Bothaville, Losdoorns, Viljoenskroon, Wesselsbron, Delareyville and Ventersdorp which received light showers. These were however not sufficient to notably improve soil moisture.

The expected rainfall of over 50 millimetres across the sunflower seed growing areas during the next two weeks could meaningfully improve soil moisture and therefore benefit the crop. The medium-term forecast promises above normal rainfall in summer crop growing areas between this month and May 2018.

In the global market, the USDA forecasts the 2017/2018 global sunflower seed production at 46 million tons, down by 3% from the previous season. This is due to lower yields in parts of Russia and Ukraine. Argentina, Turkey and the European Union registered an uptick in production.


The potato market lost ground in yesterday’s (11 March 2018) trade session owing to a large stock of 902 788 tons at the start of the session. The price was down by 3% from the previous day, closing at R34.44 per pocket of 10kg bags.

In the session, the market saw an uptick in deliveries owing to ongoing harvest activity in most parts of the country. This led to a 4% increase in daily stocks to 934 899 pockets.


The fruit market ended the day mixed in Friday’s (9 March 2018) trade session. The prices of bananas and oranges were up by 7% and 31% from the previous day (8 March 2018), closing at R7.49 and R6.05 per kilogramme. These gains were underpinned by lower stocks of 175 000 tons of bananas and 38 000 tons of oranges.

The price of apples declined by 4% from the previous day (8 March 2018) and settled at R7.91 per kilogramme. This was pressured by a 24% uptick in daily stock to 219 000 tons.

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