Grain handlers brace for 15 million tons this year

The Grain Handling Organisation of Southern Africa’s (GOSA) members handled 10,4 million tons of maize in 2011, of which 1,8 million tons were exported to Mexico, Italy, Korea, Venezuela, Kuwait, Iran, Japan, Madagascar and Taiwan.

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 This is according to Annatjie Loio, president of GOSA. Speaking at the 29th annual GOSA symposium at Club Mykonos on the West Coast recently, she said the organisation’s members are geared to store about 15 million tons of grain in South African silos this year.

In her annual report she stated that about 100 000t of white maize were imported from Zambia and 150 000t of yellow maize imported from Romania and the Ukraine in 2011. “With a (local) wheat crop of 1,4 million tons, 750 000t had to be imported from Australia, South America, Canada and Europe. (A total of) 50 000t of grain sorghum was imported from Australia. The maize imports from Zambia could have been pushed up to a million tons were it not for the poor rail infrastructure.

The majority of maize was brought in by road,” she said. Albert Swart, executive manager of sales and marketing at Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), told the symposium that Transnet expects to double the tonnage of grain transported by rail in seven years’ time. Last year TFR transported 3,3 million tons of grain. According to Swart there was a drop in the tonnage of grain transported by TFR recently.

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“This could be ascribed to unreliable rolling stock and outdated locomotives. TFR has undertaken to spend more than R200 billion from 1 April 2012 in an effort to improve railway transport – R77,2 million on new locomotives, R76,7 billion on infrastructure improvement and R47,1 billion on new trucks.”

Meanwhile, Loio said that economic growth in Africa is the second highest in the world. The sub-Saharan region already has a population of one billion people who have to be fed. “This poses tremendous challenges for our members in the future since we have to channel grain to the region. The World Food Programme has already requested us to train other African countries in the fumigation and storage of grain,” she said.

Loio added that a national maize harvest of 11,7 million tons is expected for this season. She said the crop might be later than usual because of late plantings. “The local maize usage is 9,5 million tons. If an 11,7 million ton maize harvest is realised, it will leave us with an exportable surplus of 2 million tons,” she explained.