Heavy rain puts a damper on SA’s maize crop estimate

South African growers have planted around 2,6 million hectares of maize this summer season, 5,29% less than the 2,7 million hectares planted in the previous season, the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) announced on 27 January. However, delayed plantings in some regions, as well as crop damage due to the recent excessive rainfall, could result in this figure being adjusted.

Grain SA Economist Corné Louw told Farmer’s Weekly that the main reason for the decline was the fact that many farmers were unable to enter their fields to plant due to the heavy rainfall.“Traditionally, [the CEC’s Area Planted Estimate] is very accurate. However, we need to take note that some farmers might still plant crops with a shorter growing season if the fields dry out.”The CEC further reported that the preliminary area estimate for white maize was 1,58 million hectares, which represented a decrease of 6,87% or 116 200ha compared with the 1,69 million hectares planted last season.

In the case of yellow maize, the area estimate was just over one million hectares, which was 2,77% or 29 500ha less than the just over one million hectares planted in the previous season.Louw said the bulk of the white maize crop was traditionally planted in the western parts of the country, where many farmers couldn’t gain access to their fields.“We already know that farmers’ yields will also be negatively affected by the heavy rain, but Grain SA still cannot say with certainty what the extent of the damage will be.”

“On a positive note, Grain SA is delighted about the increase in sunflower seed that has been and is still being planted,” Louw said.The preliminary area estimate for sunflower seed was 580 000ha, an increase of over 21% from the 477 800ha planted in the season prior to that.“This is positive, because South Africa has a shortage of sunflower seed.”In addition, an estimated 10% more soya bean, or 910 000ha, had been planted this season compared with last season’s 827 100ha. Although this was lower than farmers had originally planned, it remained the highest-ever area planted to soya bean in South Africa, he said.

Louw added that it was disappointing that the area estimate for sorghum had declined by nearly 29%, or 14 200ha, from 49 200ha in the previous season to 35 000ha.For groundnuts, the area estimate declined by almost 12% to 34 000ha from the 38 550ha planted in the previous season. Source Farmers weekly

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