Maize products in South Africa could be hit with a double-digit increase

 ·31 Mar 2024

Drier and hotter-than-usual weather in crop-growing regions in South Africa means that it is expected that South Africans wanting to be maize products will have to dig deeper into their pockets.

“Harvest could be down by roughly 20%… which suggests that consumers in the coming two to three months [could see a] 10 to 12%,” increase in the price of maize products, said Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, speaking to Newzroom Afrika.

This is above the country’s current food inflation rate of 7%.

In its latest crop production estimate, South Africa’s Crop Estimate Committee sees the country’s overallyea summer grains and oilseed harvest for the 2023/24 season at 15.8 million tonnes, down 21% from the previous year.

This hit to the agricultural industry results from El Niño-induced weather patterns (associated with dry and hot weather), which has has hurt the crop yield of numerous southern African countries, including South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Looking at Zambia as an example, the country has banned the export of the maize due to, as Sihlobo says, “nearly half of its maize products failing.” In late February, its president, Hakainde Hichilema, declared Zambia’s severe drought a national disaster and emergency.

In Zimbabwe, there have been reports that roughly 2.7 million Zimbabweans are at risk of hunger because of the drought impact in their summer grain fields, which has resulted in the country planning to import 1.1 million metric tons of maize over the next year.

Sihlobo said that the biggest challenge that these regions have “is primarily white maze supplies,” as “the only country that produces white maze in large volume is Mexico.”

As a result, it is expected that there will be a worldwide constraint on white maize supplies.

Conversely, Sihlobo said that yellow maize “could easily [be acquired] from the world market,” at relatively low prices and that they are currently “not worried” about other products in the food basket, like fruit, vegetables and meat.

Read: Food prices continue to climb in South Africa – with 19 items seeing a double-digit increase

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