SA looks to US for maize imports as local baskets continue to dry up

South Africa may need to import up to five million tonnes of maize – about 50% of its total requirements – according to media reports. And, despite the current uncertainty around SA’s inclusion in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), the country is eyeing major imports from the United States.
“We will be lucky if we produce 5 million tonnes this year and then we will need to import 5 million tonnes. This is the sort of scenario that we are looking at,” Jannie de Villiers, chief executive of Grain SA, was cited by Reuters agency as saying.
South African white maize prices doubled last year and the March white maize contract hit a record high of R4 901 ($311) per tonne yesterday (Tuesday) amid drought worries.
Earlier this week the Minister of Agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana, said that SA might start importing white and yellow maize from the US as soon as April or May this year if the ongoing drought continued to negatively affect the agricultural sector.
Speaking at a media briefing on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) in Pretoria, Zokwana said the country only had enough maize supplies in stock to last four or five months.
If South Africa ends up importing maize, food prices will go up, warned Zokwana.
Meanwhile media reports have noted that SA’s neighbour, Zimbabwe, also plans to import up to 700 000 tonnes of maize this year.
According to the state-owned newspaper, The Herald, the Zimbabwean government has imported only 100 000 tonnes of maize since November last year. The country’s agriculture minister, Joseph Made, was cited by The Herald as saying that drought conditions had worsened and that the government would allocate US$260 million to import between 500 000 and 700 000 tonnes of maize.

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