Zambia plans to sell as much as a third of its record maize crop (known locally as 'corn') to regional countries including Zimbabwe as drought and floods in neighbouring nations decimate harvests of the grain used as a staple food, New Zimbabwe reports.
The country will sell as much as 1 million metric tons of its white-corn surplus, Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda said. The government has set aside about almost one-third of its record 3.2 million-tonne 2014 crop to sell locally and to neighbours, he said.
“I’m hoping very much that all of it will go to exports because the quantity we’re sitting on now, about 1.4 million tonnes, is much more than we require for local consumption,” Lubinda said by mobile phone from Lusaka, the capital.
The worst drought since 1992 in South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer and traditional supplier of its neighbors, has damaged plants, with the nation predicting a 32 percent drop in the 2015 harvest to the smallest in eight years.
Botswana said crops are showing signs of “total failure” due to below-average rainfall, while floods in Malawi and Mozambique have curbed production.
Grain SA, the largest representative of cereal crop farmers in South Africa, expects the country to have a surplus of at least 100,000 tonnes of white corn, enough to meet the needs of the country and neighboring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland until the new harvest starts in about May 2016, Chief Executive Officer Jannie de Villiers said in a March 18 interview.
Zambia has supplied Zimbabwe with corn in recent years, he said.
Any extra demand by Zimbabwe would imperil the supply balance, said Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at the South African grains organization.
“There’s going to be more pressure on the demand side because Malawi serves a number of countries,” Sihlobo said.
Zimbabwe has bought 56,997 tons of white corn from South Africa since the start of the marketing year in May last year, or 12 percent of the country’s exports, data from the South African Grain Information Service shows. In the previous year, Zimbabwe purchased 28 percent of the total.
Zambia’s government will export corn for prices ranging from US$195 to US$240 a tonne, Lubinda told lawmakers March 18. White corn in South Africa has surged 28 percent this year and was at 2760 rand (US$228) a tonne on Friday in Johannesburg. Corn on the Chicago Board of Trade has fallen 5.9 percent to US$3.7375 a bushel, or the equivalent of US$147.15 a tonne.
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