South Africa’s 2013/14 Wheat Area Remains Low, While Wheat Imports Continue to Rise
USDA’s forecast for 2013/14 South Africa wheat production is 1.7 million tons, down 270,000 tons from last year. Yield is forecast at 3.3 tons/hectare which is slightly above the 5-year average yield of 3.07 tons/hectare, but down 10 percent from last year’s record yield of 3.66 tons/hectare. Harvested wheat area is forecast at 515,000 hectares which is slightly above last year’s low wheat area of 511,000 hectares and close to the first planted area estimate of 515,200 hectares released by South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) on July 25.
Rainfall for planting wheat was above-average in the Western Cape province from May-July, 2013 but below-average for the Free State province. The MODIS-NDVI anomaly image (July 20-27, 2013) and cropland time series profile in Figure 1 indicates that current wheat conditions are above-average to average in the Western Cape province, but not nearly as favorable as last year when record crop yields were achieved. In contrast, dry planting conditions were experienced in the Free State province from May through July (refer to Figure 2), where potential yields are currently below-average due to the late planted crop in many regions within the province.
Figure 1. MODIS-NDVI Anomaly image from July 20-27, 2013 indicate good crop establishment for wheat in the Western Cape province and less than favorable planting conditions for the Free State.
Figure 2. Planting conditions and crop conditions in Western Cape were favorable as indicated by the 3-month Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI).
South Africa’s Free State and Western Cape provinces produced over 67 percent of South Africa’s wheat crop last year, with dryland agriculture respectively producing 85 and 99 percent of wheat in these two provinces (refer to Figures 3 and 4). Historically, South Africa’s wheat yields and quality have varied widely due to unsteady and erratic seasonal rainfall, especially in the southwestern part of the Western Cape where the winter rainfall season (from April- October) is highly variable.
Figure 3. South Africa’s District Wheat Yields
Figure 4. General Agriculture Regions in South Africa
(yellow indicates wheat and maize regions)
South Africa’s wheat area has decreased during the past 40 years from a record area of 2.025 million hectares in 1973/74 to less than 0.52 million hectares during the past two years (refer to Figure 5). The steady decrease in wheat area during the past four decades has caused South Africa to import wheat on an annual basis for more than 20 years and imports continue to increase annually (refer to Figure 6). Before South Africa’s record wheat production in 1988/1989, South Africa produced a surplus of wheat during very good rainfall years and only imported wheat during years of poor rainfall. However, after 1989, domestic wheat production failed to meet national demand and wheat imports have gradually increased with 2 million tons forecast this marketing year (refer to FAS GAIN report, 3/25/2013). The trend of decreased wheat production and increased wheat imports during the past two decades is due to South African farmers finding it difficult to produce wheat profitably and they have gradually switched to growing more profitable crops such as canola, oats, corn, and soybeans.
Figure 5. South Africa’s wheat area decreased from 2.0 to 0.5 million hectares during the past 40-years
Figure 6. South Africa wheat imports have reached record highs, as production trend decreases and consumption continues to increase.
General wheat planting calendars for the Western Cape and Free State provinces are shown Figures 7 and 8, respectively. According to the wheat planting calendars, wheat is sown in the Western Cape province from mid-April to mid-June, while it is sown in the Free State province between mid-May to the end of July. The wheat planting calendar in Figure 7 is from the Sensako seed company for the Western Cape province, while the wheat planting calendar in Figure 8 is from the Pannar seed company for the Free State and bordering provinces.
Figure 7. Wheat planting dates for South Africa’s western and southern Cape (from Sensako).
Figure 8. Wheat planting dates for South Africa’s Free State (from Pannar).
Related Links at FAS
South Africa Grain and Feed Annual Report (March 25, 2013) from the
USDA/FAS GAIN (Global Agricultural Information Network) reporting system
Crop Explorer from USDA/FAS/OGA/IPAD
MODIS-NDVI Time Series Data from USDA-FAS/NASA-GIMMS
Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD's Agricultural Production page or at PSD Online.