With the latest Crop Estimates Committee forecast 11% lower than the previous forecast, analysts have warned that SA would almost certainly have to import maize to make up for the shortfall on national demand.
“The local consumption average is 8,5 million tons and we have a 1,6 million shortfall,” said Dr Ferdi Meyer, head of the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy at the University of Pretoria. H e said there are speculations that will import white maize from Zambia. According to the Zambian ministry of agriculture, the country will have a surplus of 160 000 tons of maize in the 2006/07 season. However, Meyer said that it is not certain that the Zambian government will allow exports to SA. GrainCo trader Stephan van der Watt said lower stock levels will have a positive effect on the maize price well into the next planting season. “This will motivate farmers to plant,” he said, but added that farmers will probably have to delay planting until it rains next season due to the current low soil moisture levels. “We need at least 150mm of rain before serious soil preparation can start,” said Prof Johan Willemse, agricultural economist at the University of the Free State. For the 2006/07 production season some farmers may struggle to deliver on contracts for maize sold upfront, warned John Gordon, chairperson of the SA Cereal and Oilseed Trade Association. He advised farmers in this situation to communicate with buyers and deliver on contracts where possible. “At the end of the day a contract is a contract. Drought is not a reason for non-performance unless the contract makes provision for such circumstances,” Gordon said, adding that a genuine buyer will not be unsympathetic to the farmer’s predicament. The buyer and farmer can come to some agreement. – Wilma den Hartigh