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Reference Date: 03-September-2015


  1. Maize production in 2015 decreased by 30 percent compared to bumper 2014 harvest, on account of poor rains

  2. Reduced 2015 output results in tighter supply situation for 2015/16 marketing year (May/April) and lower exports

  3. Maize prices are significantly above last year

Sharp decrease for 2015 maize production

The aggregate (commercial and non-commercial) 2015 maize output is estimated at 10.5 million tonnes, 30 percent below the bumper production of the previous year due, largely, to an extended dry-weather period during the first quarter of 2015. The most pronounced yield decreases were registered in the large producing provinces of Free State and Northwest that contribute nearly two-thirds to the national output. White maize production declined by a significant 40 percent in the commercial sector and accounts for the bulk of the aggregate production decline, while the yellow maize crop declined by only 22 percent, reflecting more favourable weather conditions in eastern provinces where production is concentrated. Sorghum production is about half of the level of 2014, while the winter wheat crop, to be harvested in October, is forecast to decline by 3 percent to 1.7 million tonnes, mostly reflecting an expected decrease in yields.

Overall, the 2015 aggregate cereal output is forecast at 12.76 million tonnes, below the five-year average and about 26 percent down on the 2014 bumper harvest.

Tighter supplies and low exports in 2015/16

The reduced 2015 harvest has resulted in tight national maize supplies in the 2015/16 marketing year (May/April) and consequently exports are forecast to decrease significantly compared to the previous year. Stocks, however, are well above the previous year’s level (boosted by last year’s bumper harvest), while maize imports, forecast between 0.6 and 0.7 million tonnes for 2015/16 will also help to stabilize domestic supplies.

Between May and August, about 200 000 tonnes of maize were exported, compared to approximately 1.7 million tonnes over the same period in the previous year. Most of this variation is on account of significantly lower yellow maize exports to Asia. Cumulative maize imports by the end of August exceeded the export volume, estimated at 219 000 tonnes.

As a result of the lower export availabilities, importing countries in southern Africa, which are normally supplied by South Africa, may need to source maize imports from other countries both within and outside the subregion. Zambia, which has become a distant second exporter, is another country in the subregion with exportable supplies.

Maize prices increase steeply

Spot prices of maize recorded strong gains this year, mainly due to the sharply reduced 2015 maize output and consequent tighter supplies. In August, however, prices declined slightly following a small upward revision in the 2015 production estimate and mirroring the international price trend. Despite the modest decline, white and yellow maize prices in August were 77 and 49 percent, respectively, higher than their year-earlier levels. The weaker price increase of yellow maize is mainly a result of the smaller production decrease in 2015 and relatively sluggish export rate.

Relevant links:
 Cereal Supply/Demand Balance Sheet
 Food Price Data and Analysis Tool
 Earth Observation Indicators
 Seasonal Indicators
 Vegetation Indicators
 Precipitation Indicators
 Graphs & Data
 NDVI & Precipitation
 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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