South Africa's cereal harvest hits new high with second largest output in 2023

01 September 20232 min reading

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released its recent Country Brief report on South Africa, highlighting the nation's remarkable agricultural achievements in the cereal sector. According to the report, South Africa's total cereal production for 2023 is projected to reach 19.6 million tonnes, a significant increase of 2.2 million tonnes compared to the five-year average. This harvest stands as the second-largest cereal output in the country's history, following the record-breaking performance in 2021.

The cornerstone of South Africa's cereal production, corn, is predicted to reach an above-average level of 17 million tonnes in 2023. This achievement can be attributed to favorable weather conditions that led to high yields during the cropping season. Despite the challenges posed by rising agricultural input costs, such as agrochemicals and fertilizers, farmers were incentivized by remunerative crop prices, resulting in a corn planting area that exceeded the five-year average. Furthermore, the report highlights a substantial upsurge in soybean plantings for 2023, driven by its relatively lower input requirements and subsequently lower production costs compared to corn. As a result, the country attained a record soybean output of nearly 2.8 million tonnes this year.

The upcoming winter wheat harvests, expected to take place in October, are anticipated to yield approximately 2 million tonnes of wheat. Despite a reduction in wheat plantings, favorable weather conditions in key producing regions are expected to contribute to good yields.


South Africa's status as a net exporter of corn is set to continue during the 2023/24 marketing year. Following four consecutive years of above-average harvests, which bolstered domestic supplies and elevated stocks, the nation is projected to export 3.6 million tonnes of corn, notably to Asian countries and neighboring Southern African nations. These exports are essential for maintaining strong regional trade relationships and supporting food security in the sub-region.

South Africa’s cereal imports for the 2023/24 marketing year are predicted to reach 2.7 million tonnes, with a focus on rice and wheat. Wheat imports are anticipated to rise to approximately 1.7 million tonnes, reflecting a possible production downturn in 2023.

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