Variable weather alters SA’s 2018 agri outlook

South Africa’s agriculture outlook for 2018 has changed from a positive to a mixed position according to Agricultural Business Chamber (AgBiz) economist Wandile Sihlobo.

This as the positive outlook projected by Sihlobo at end 2017 was reliant on good chances of La Niña weather conditions during the 2017/18 summer season. However, while the eastern parts of the country received very good rainfall, the central and western parts had very little.

“This led to delays in summer crop planting activity, particularly in the North West and the western parts of the Free State,” he said.

The latest survey from Grain SA has shown that farmers in both provinces were unable to meet their maize planting objectives due to the persistent dry conditions.

Sihlobo pointed out that these two provinces collectively accounted for 68% of the intended maize planting area as well as the lion’s share (86%) of sunflower seed production in the 2017/18 season.

Another factor affecting the outlook for this year is that the optimal maize planting window has already passed. Therefore widespread showers would result in minimal improvements in planting activity and any maize planted outside of this window would risk being affected by frost and would increase the likeliness of poor yields.

Fortunately, the sunflower seed optimal planting window will remain open until January 20 so good rainfall before this date could still positively impact SA’s agriculture outlook.

Additionally, he noted that due to the buffer of large stocks from the previous season – with record maize and oilseed harvests – the country was still well supplied in the short to medium term. Inflation would not change significantly and commodity prices remained under pressure, he added.

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