At this early stage, South Africa’s grain producers intend to plant about 9,3% more summer crops than last year. On 27 September the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) revealed the producers’ area planted and second forecasts for this year’s winter crops, as well as planting intentions for the coming summer planting season.
Wheat statistics revealed planted hectares shrunk from last year’s 764 800ha to 632 000ha. Nico Hawkins, Grain SA’s commodity services manager, said this had been the pattern in wheat since deregulation in 1997 and that “South Africa is producing less wheat every year”. In 2006 the wheat crop was 2 105 000t. The second estimate for 2007 forecast only 1 664 050t. According to Hawkins, drier conditions in the north were contributing to this year’s smaller harvest.
Due to the low wheat price at the time, numerous irrigation farmers planted early maize instead of wheat. The revised forecast for malting barely is 205 210t, for canola 38 180t and for sweet lupins 11 900t. There is definitely room for producers to plant even more groundnuts, sunflower and soya beans than they intend to, Hawkins said. At a 22,6% increase, groundnut producers are heading in the right direction. With only about 50 000t of groundnuts produced in the country last year, it has been the smallest harvest since deregulation. “We can produce 67 000ha of groundnuts without shaking the market,” said. T he CEC showed producers intended a huge 64,4% increase in sunflower planting, from 316 350ha to 520 000ha. SA recommended 508 000ha. Only 150 000ha of soya beans will be planted, whereas 183 000ha were planted in the previous season. “This is very low and the reason for it is uncertain,” Hawkins said.
Once price signals start showing, producers might decide to plant more soya beans. “There is room to plant between 220 000ha and 250 000ha.” G rain SA suggested Africa shouldn’t produce more than 1,24 million hectares of white maize, while producers intend to plant about 1,59 million hectares. “We don’t see that as a dramatic problem,” said. he organisation was also happy with the yellow maize estimate of 1,07 million hectares, although it suggested a crop of 1,16 million hectares. F armers intend to plant 15,9% more sorghum than in the previous season, up from 69 999ha to 80 000ha, and 17,2% less dry beans, from 50 725ha to 42 000ha. H awkins said it all boiled down to the weather, particularly rains. “If we have rain, it will be a good season for producers,” he said, sounding optimistic. – Susan Botes