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Reference Date: 08-January-2014


  1. Early prospects for the 2014 maize crop uncertain in western areas

  2. Increased yellow maize output in 2013 partially offsets sharp reduction in white maize

  3. Large volumes of yellow maize exported during the first half of 2013/14 marketing year (May/April)

  4. Maize prices increase rapidly at the end of 2013, reaching record levels, reflecting tight supply expectations in 2014

Early prospects for the 2014 maize crop uncertain due to expectations of lower plantings and dry weather in parts

Planting intentions for the 2014 maize crop indicate a 4 percent contraction to 2.7 million hectares. Farmers reportedly opted to plant oilseeds instead, while early season dryness in October and November also contributed to the expected decrease in the area planted to maize. Rains improved towards the end of 2013, bringing some relief to the North West main growing province, which was declared a drought area in September. However, vegetation activity in western parts still remains below average and enhanced rains are required to improve crop performance. Forecasts for the next two-week period point to an increased chance of below normal rains over northwestern areas. The release of the preliminary planting estimates at the end of January will provide a clearer production outlook for the 2014 crop.

Increased yellow maize output in 2013 partially offsets sharp reduction in white maize

The final aggregate (commercial and non-commercial) production estimate for the 2013 maize crop is put at 12.4 million tonnes, close to the previous five-year average. Despite a sharp reduction in white maize production (approximately -20 percent) significant production gains (about 18 percent) were recorded for the yellow maize crop - predominantly used for animal feed. Yellow maize production in 2013 surpassed that of white maize for the first time in 19 seasons, contributing to the near-average aggregate output.

Harvesting of the winter wheat crop is complete and the latest estimate points to an output of about 1.75 million tonnes, approximately 6 percent below the previous year’s harvest. A small reduction in the area planted and lower yields account for the decrease this year.

Large volumes of yellow maize exported in 2013

Maize exports in the current 2013/14 marketing year (May/April) are forecast to reach nearly 2 million tonnes, similar to last year’s level. By December, nearly 1.7 million tonnes had been exported, of which approximately 1.1 million tonnes were yellow maize, including nearly 600 000 tonnes to Japan. In the previous marketing year, a total of 413 000 tonnes of yellow maize were exported, significantly below the large volumes exported in 2013.

Exports to the structurally cereal deficit neighbouring countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (BLNS) are estimated at approximately 350 000 tonnes, satisfying about 70 percent of their combined import requirements. Exports to Zimbabwe have reached 152 000, as the country seeks to bridge its larger national deficit in 2013/14.

Maize prices increased to record levels in December

Expectations of a tight supply situation this year fuelled a rapid increase in the price of maize in December to record levels. The downward revision of the closing stocks for the 2013/14 marketing year (May/April), forecast to be about half the level of 2012/13, combined with lower planting intentions for the 2014 crop and poor crop conditions in western parts of the maize triangle, put upward pressure on prices. In December, white and yellow maize prices averaged about ZAR 2 740 per tonne, 19 and 13 percent above their year earlier levels, respectively. Prices at the start of January have hovered around the ZAR 3 000 per tonne level. If these high maize prices persist, upward pressure on domestic prices in the structurally deficit countries of the subregion could transpire.

Relevant links:
 Cereal Supply/Demand Balance Sheet
 Food Price Data and Analysis Tool
 Main Food-related Policy Measures (From 1 Jan 2008 to 11 Oct 2011)
 Interpolated Estimated Dekadal Rainfall
 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) Reports & Special Alerts: 2002, 2001, 2000, 2000, 1998, 1997
From FAO:
 FAO Country Profiles

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