Zimbabwe faces significant maize shortfall

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IN terms of maize supply, South Africa is in a favorable position with a projected commercial maize production of 16.1 million tonnes for the 2022/23 season, which is 5% higher than the previous year and the third largest on record.

With annual maize needs of approximately 12 million tonnes, South Africa could have over 3 million tonnes available for export in the 2023/24 marketing year.

This significant harvest was achieved due to farmers’ efforts to plant beyond the optimal window, despite heavy rainfall disrupting their activities. While concerns existed regarding potential poor yields and frost risks, South Africa managed to avoid significant setbacks and expects an ample maize harvest.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe’s maize production for the 2022/23 season has faced challenges. Although the season started well with favorable rainfall, a dry spell in December and the impact of Cyclone Freddy in late January resulted in crop damage. Estimates suggest that Zimbabwe’s maize production for the current season may reach 1.5 million tonnes, which is a mild improvement from the previous year but still 32% lower than the annual maize needs of 2.2 million tonnes.

As a result, Zimbabwe may need to import around half a million tonnes to fulfill its maize requirements for the 2023/24 marketing year. Additionally, the Zimbabwe Grain Marketing Board is obligated to maintain a minimum strategic maize reserve of half a million tonnes in physical stocks. Considering the challenging economic conditions in Zimbabwe, it remains uncertain if the board will be able to procure the full reserve within the upcoming marketing year.

South Africa’s surplus of over 3 million tonnes for the 2023/24 marketing year can help offset Zimbabwe’s potential maize imports. While Zimbabwe may import a portion of its maize from Zambia, it is expected to rely more heavily on South Africa.

The pace of Zimbabwe’s maize imports will be closely monitored, as it could lead to a significant increase in regional maize demand. The podcast segment will provide further discussion on this topic.