Oilseeds Focus logo

Editor's note

Agricultural trade: An overview

The growth value of South African agricultural trade was 17% year-on-year at the end of 2023. The value of exports is still almost double that of imports. This is despite the logistical challenges the industry has faced, and continues to face – notably the performance of our ports. The agricultural industry's main export trading partners are the European Union and the Southern African Development Community.

Unfavourable weather conditions

So much has changed since the last edition of Oilseeds Focus. Anti­ci­pated rainfall in early 2024 turned out to be inconsistent and numerous areas had to contend with below-normal rainfall. This culminated in a significant reduction in maize and soya bean volumes produced this season.

Maize production is estimated at 13,39 million tonnes, 19% less than in 2023, and soya bean production at 1,82 million tonnes, 34% lower than the record crop of the previous season. Sunflower production was fortunately slightly less affected at an estimated 615 000 tonnes, 15% less than last season.

A record 237 450 tonnes of canola were harvested in the winter rainfall region in 2023. In terms of the current season, the record intentions to plant of 141 100ha are looking very promising.

Price increases

The rapid transformation from exporting to importing maize and soya bean/soya bean meal, due to the lower yields, resulted in expected price increases. When comparing the first few days of trading in May, South African Futures Exchange (Safex) prices increased – white maize increased by R1 550, yellow maize by R590, soya bean by R783 and sunflower by R610/tonne.

Green soya beans

The industry has experienced an unusually high percentage of green soya beans in certain areas of the country this year. This resulted in the downgrading or rejection of soya bean deliveries. Green soya beans present the challenge that, if present at excessive levels, oil will have a green colour once processed, rendering it commercially unusable. Full-fat soya will also have a green colour and will be rejected by the end user. These beans have been shown to contain some abnormal nutrients, and it is much more difficult to reduce trypsin inhibitors during processing.

Efforts are ongoing to understand the implications of the high percentage of green beans. Many storage operators have come to the aid of the industry by creating a possible blending strategy. The implications for the quality of soya bean meal are also being assessed. The cause is not due to any fault of the producer, but can be ascribed to abnormal weather conditions.