Groundnut processors “not happy” with low crop estimates

South Africa’s groundnut processors are unhappy with the implications of the latest low estimate for this crop’s yield from the 2012/2013 summer production season.

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In addition to expecting to pay higher prices as a result, there is also the likelihood of companies having to buy in inferior quality product from local producers, and also to import increasingly expensive groundnut shipments, all in an effort to effectively meet demand.

The Crop Estimates Committee’s fourth production forecast for the 2012/2013 summer indicated an expected 50 600t of groundnuts from 46 900ha, at an average yield of 1,08t/ha. This latest forecast was 12,61%, or some 7 300t down on the third forecast, and 8 400t down on the final national groundnut harvest of 59 000t in the 2011/2012 season.  According to Johan Roux of agricultural commodities trading company, Safrinut, the country’s groundnut industry needed in the region of 85 000t of groundnuts annually in order to meet the approximately 65 000t local demand and between 15 000t to 20 000t export demand.

“We are not happy about this decline in the estimated groundnut yield, because processing factories require throughput to generate income,” Roux said. “Also, with low yields and the expected poor quality of local groundnuts, farmers will be expecting unreasonably high prices for their product. The problem is that groundnut processors will end up being forced to pay these high prices, and also run the risk of the bought groundnuts being of poor quality,” he said.

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Safrinut explained that the drop in groundnut harvest estimates were as a result of poor weather conditions during planting and scattered rainfall during the growing season. In addition to the expected lower yields, there were concerns that much of the current groundnut crop could be contaminated with aflatoxins – a group of toxins that are produced by two fungi called Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus – and processors would have to discard the affected batches.

The shortfall of local groundnuts would probably be made up by imports from the likes of Argentina, Brazil, the US, China, other African countries, and India. These imports would be expensive given the weakened rand against other major currencies. The CEC’s latest crop estimate revealed that the national maize harvest was expected to be 11,44 million tons from 2,781 million hectares, at an average yield of 4,11t/ha.

“The potential size of the maize crop was further decreased [from the third forecast] by 121 750t, or 1,05%, to 11,440 million tons as the dry conditions earlier this year in North West and the Free State impacted negatively on maize yields,” said the CEC’s, Rodney Dredge.

  • The expected sunflower seed harvest remained the same at 554 500t from 504 700 ha, at an average 1,1t/ha.
  • The expected soya-bean crop was revised down by 2,98% to 825 600t from 516 500ha, at an average of 1,6t/ha.
  • The expected sorghum harvest of 168 114t remained the same. An average yield of 2,68t/ha was expected from 62 620ha planted. 
  • The expected dry bean crop was revised upwards with 2,99% to 57 780t from 43 550ha, at an average of 1,33t/ha.