S. Africa’s 2022 corn exports show potential despite new crop issues

10 Jun 2022 | Veronika Prykhodko

South African farmers are expected to harvest a smaller corn crop in the 2022/23 marketing year but are still likely to have another active exporting campaign, despite optimistic crop expectations in other competitive origins like South America and the US.

The harvesting campaign has been delayed by heavy rains and flooding across the country experienced in April and May, with the weather inflicting crop damage.

“Corn crop size looks decent but it's smaller than last year. We are seeing more long-term yield than the above-average of the past few years, lower hectares as well are playing a role,” a South Africa-based trader told Agricensus.

The estimates now stand at 14.72 million mt, down by 10% from last year’s record crop of 16.31 million mt, according to an outlook published by the local Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) in late May.

A lower crop expectation is based on smaller planted areas, that are down 5% year-on-year at 2.62 million ha, compared to 2.75 million ha planted last year.

Nevertheless, market participants are projecting another active export campaign, despite a potential decrease in the export surplus.

“South Africa has been killing it so far, all slots are fully allocated into August,” a Singapore-based trader said on the prevalence of South African corn forward sales.

“For now, it seems we will export much the same as previous years as we have healthy carryover stocks. It won’t be the same amount as last year as that was one of our highest years on record, but mostly because Brazil had crop issues,” a South-Africa-based trader said.

Indeed, the season of 2021/22 was one of the busiest for the country, when exporters managed to ship a total of 3.73 million mt of corn between May 2021 and April 2022.

Cargoes mainly left for Taiwan (880,319 mt), Japan (824,823 mt), Vietnam (499,882 mt) and South Korea (430,395 mt), according to South African Grain Information Service (Sagis).

The USDA is forecasting South Africa’s 2022/23 corn exports at 2.5 million mt.

Since the beginning of the season last month, a total of 330,510 mt of both yellow (200,482 mt) and white (130,028 mt) sailed from South Africa, heading mainly to Asian destinations as well as southern Europe, according to SAGIS data.

The CEC's fifth production forecast of South Africa's summer crops, including corn, will arrive on June 28.