Agri Noordkaap - Wheat crop plummets 18% owing to drought

Combine harvesters work in a wheat field. Picture: REUTERS/ILYA NAYMUSHIN

SA’s 2015 winter wheat crop fell 18% from the previous year to 1.44-million tonnes because of drought, the government’s Crop Estimates Committee said on Thursday in its final assessment of the harvest.

SA imports about half of the wheat it consumes, but industry group Grain SA has estimated it will need to import 2-million tonnes — about 60% of its needs — in this marketing year, which ends on September 30.

Imported wheat forms part of SA’s bread flour mix.

Earlier, Reuters reported that Chicago-traded wheat was on track for its biggest weekly price fall in nearly six months after a forecast of a bumper harvest in the top US wheat growing state.

On SA’s maize staple, Business Day reported that due to the drought, SA had become a net importer of white and yellow maize for the first time since 2004.

In the marketing year ahead, SA will import 2.7-million tonnes of yellow and 1.1-million tonnes of white maize. The country is traditionally a net exporter of maize, producing an annual average of 12.5-million tonnes.

Data from Grain Information Service (Sagis) show that SA already imported white maize from the US earlier in May — the first time since 2004 — amounting to 1,330 tonnes.

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