Johannesburg - South Africa risks having to import maize by
the end of this year if it commits too much of its crop for export following a
bumper harvest, an industry official said on Wednesday.
Jannie de Villiers, chief executive officer of farmers'
group Grain SA, said the country has managed to attract more maize buyers after
struggling to find exports markets last year.
"Our prices were fairly low compared to the rest of the
world, and we attracted a lot of buyers. If we maintain that, we can actually
do more than 3 million tonnes a year, but I don't think we have as much surplus
available," he told Reuters in an interview.
He added: "There is a huge possibility that we might
have exported so much maize and committed so much maize for export that we
would have to import by the end of the year."
South Africa, the continent's largest maize producer, had to
find new markets outside Africa after countries within the continent, which
usually buy its maize, also recorded surpluses.
South Africa harvested 12.815 million tonnes of maize in the
2009/10 season, its biggest crop in three decades.
According to data on the South African Grain Information
Service (SAGIS) website, South Africa exported 2.065 million tonnes of maize in
the May 2010-April 2011 marketing season.
The country has so far exported 344 165 tonnes of maize in
the new season that began in May. South Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Taiwan, Italy,
Spain, Mexico and Portugal are some of the buyers of South Africa's maize.
He said the industry group was in talks with the government
about publishing sufficient information about outgoing maize.
"So that we can all see what is going out and what has
been committed for exports to make sure there is enough food for our
country," De Villiers said.
Another risk to security of food supplies in South Africa
has been the proposal by farmers to use maize for production of biofuels.
The government unveiled blending ratios for biofuels four
years ago but said maize could not be used in the production of biofuels in
order to ensure food security and keep a lid on high prices.
Farmers are willing for now to exclude white maize and wheat
from the production of biofuels to ensure food security, De Villiers said.
"If there is some sensitivity around white maize and
wheat we are willing to say let's start with whatever we can ... let's start
with grains like sorghum and soybeans," he said.
South Africa's agriculture minister said last year there was
room for government to review the biofuels policy and urged farmers to come
forward with ideas on how to best implement the policy.