South Africa’s overall 2017/18 summer crops intentions-to-plant data paints an optimistic picture, with the total area plantings expected to increase by 1% from the previous season to 4.03 million hectares. However, there are disparities within the summer crop cluster. All oilseeds and sorghum area hectares are expected to increase, with the exception of the maize area which is set to decline by 6% from the previous season to 2.47 million hectares. This slightly better than Bloomberg’s consensus forecast of 9% year-on-year decline in maize plantings to 2.39 million hectares.
Although overall maize hectares are expected to decline, this is mainly skewed towards white maize which is set to decline by 15% from the 2016/17 season to 1.40 million hectares. Meanwhile, yellow maize area could increase by 8% from the previous season to 1.07 million hectares (Chart 1). The key driver behind this trend is mainly the lower commodity prices, on the back of large supplies from the 2016/17 production season.
On the ground, planting activity has started in the eastern parts of the country and production should continue smoothly over the coming months. The weather prospects are fairly positive, with large rainfall expected between November 2017 and February 2018. All else being equal, this should lead to a decent harvest.
Soybean area is expected to increase by 25% from the 2016/17 production season to 720 000 hectares. Moreover, sunflower seed area could increase by 5% from the previous season to 665 500 hectares (Chart 1).
Winter crops – Today’s data confirmed that the winter wheat crop is not in good shape due to persistent dryness in the Western Cape province. The overall crop was revised down by 4% from the previous estimate to 1.66 million tonnes. This is 13% lower than the previous season’s crop and means that, imports could increase to 1.8 million tonnes in order to fulfil the domestic needs (up from 940 000 tonnes in the 2016/17 season).
Above all, it is still too early to be certain about the potential size of the new summer crops. We will monitor the developments on the ground and the incoming data in the following months.
Click below to read more recent reports by Wandile Sihlobo.