The production estimates for groundnuts in South Africa for the 2020 season has been revised downward by more than 16% due to the drought experienced during the past year in certain parts of the summer grain production regions, according to Luan van der Walt, Grain SA economist.
According to the National Crop Estimates Committee’s (CEC) most recent forecast, the current expected groundnut crop was 52 140t, which was a 16,54% decrease, or
10 330t less than the previous forecast of 62 470t.
“Indications are that about 20 000t will have to be imported, mainly from Brazil and Argentina, to meet the 70 000t local demand,” said Van der Walt.
This year’s crop will however be more than double that of last year when total production amounted to only 19 400t produced from just over 20 000ha.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a gradual decline in groundnut production in South Africa.
Historical data from the CEC shows that at the turn of the century, South African farmers planted about 95 000ha to groundnuts.
However, by 2010 this had decreased to roughly 57 000ha. According to Van der Walt, the optimum local groundnut planting window was from October to November, and due to late rainfall during the past few summer grain planting seasons, an increasing number of producers switched from groundnuts to other crops such as maize and sunflower.
Most of the groundnut cultivars available in South Africa were “long growers”, making it essential for producers to plant as early as possible in the season, he said.
According to Van der Walt, new cultivar development was of the essence to ensure ongoing sustainable and profitable groundnut production in South Africa, as the country lacked “shorter growing” cultivars that would allow producers to stretch the planting window by a week or two.
Christaan Bouwer, a groundnut producer near Bothaville, said although there was a need for new cultivars, all role players in the value chain needed to start working together to put production on a sound financial and economic footing.
“We need to find a workable solution, especially in terms of pricing. At the moment, prices fluctuate from R16 000/t for Choice Grade 1 to R2 000/t for oil grade nuts.”