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Decline in wheat production will not affect food prices

South African wheat production for the 2017/18 season is expected to decline by 23percent as compared to the previous season, mainly due to poor yields in the Western Cape and in some parts of the Free State province.

Wandile Sihlobo, an agricultural economist and head of agribusiness at the Agricultural Business Chambe, said South Africa planted 491600 hectares of wheat in the 2017/18 season, which was less than the 508365ha planted a season ago.

The smaller area planted and the drought would result in less wheat being harvested during the current season.

“The winter wheat harvest is virtually over in South Africa, with the exception of the eastern parts of the Free State province, which is in the final stages of the process.

“South Africa’s wheat production is estimated at 1.48million tons, down by 23percent from the 2016 harvest due to poor yields in the Western Cape and parts of the Free State provinces. However, this is not a final estimate; an update will be released on January 30,” Sihlobo said.

He said all in all, the yields were generally below average in the Western Cape and parts of the Free State province, whereas the Northern Cape received above average yields.

In the Western Cape the drought was so severe despite the province increasing the area planted for wheat by 3000ha. “The Western Cape increased area planted to 326000ha in the 2017/18 season, up from 323000ha as compared to the 2016/17 season.

“But the dry and warm weather conditions in the past two years affected the yields expected in the province as the drought continued,” he said.

However, Sihlobo said lower yields in wheat were not going to affect the price of food for the consumers. “The reason for this is that the country is a net importer of wheat.”

On average South Africa imports 1.6million tons of wheat and last year the country imported 1.9million tons.

Paul Makube, a senior agricultural economist at FNB, said if the Western Cape continued to experience dry seasons going forward it meant the country would face further wheat reductions and produce less wheat as a country. “Although it will not necessarily lead to a hike in the price of food, it can have an impact on tariffs as we import more wheat in the long run,” Makube said.





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