by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – AN economist has dismissed claims China’s increased maize imports from South Africa are a “political posture” by the Asian powerhouse to replace the United States.
Some media have made the claims after China bought 108 104 tonnes of maize from South Africa in the last week of March and the first few weeks of April 2023.
State-owned trader, COFCO, brought the grain. Some Chinese buyers reportedly cancelled 562 800 tonnes of US corn orders in the last week of April.
Wandile Sihlobo, the Chief Economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), noted this was not the first time China bought South African maize, but the volumes were always small in the past.
China’s maize imports from South Africa averaged 3 780 tonnes per annum over the past decade.
It was thus only the first time there has been such large volumes in recent memory, said Shihlobo, who joked the Chinese probably just discovered South Africa’s great quality maize “nicely dried in the Southern African sun.”
The economist provided statistics.
Considering South Africa’s 2022/23 total maize exports of 3,64 million tonnes, China’s recent purchase of 108 104 tonnes is a relatively small volume, he said.
South Africa’s leading export markets for maize include Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Mexico, Italy, South Korea, Botswana, Zimbabwe and various markets within the African continent.
Sihlobo reminded that China is a large maize producer, accounting for 22 percent of global maize production, an average of 277 million tonnes.
“Still, because of their significant usage, China imports maize from the world market.”
Over the past three seasons, China’s maize imports averaged 25 million tonnes a year.
The leading suppliers of maize to China included the US, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Russia, Kazakhstan, and South Africa.
“So, I have doubts that South Africa’s recent maize exports to China are some political posture, somewhat attempting to replace the US, as some media houses have argued,” Sihlobo argued.
He appreciated that the US maize exports to China averaged 17 million tonnes yearly in the past two seasons, far exceeding South Africa’s total maize production of 15,9 million tonnes this year.
At peak, South Africa’s maize exports are usually just over 3 million tonnes.
“Hence, I believe China’s recent maize imports from South Africa were a general market activity, i.e., supply diversification, and we shouldn’t read too much into it,” the economist said.
“Of course, as a proudly South African working in agriculture, I am always supportive of expanding our agricultural exports to China and keen on seeing more of our high-quality fruits, grains and beef on the plates of Chinese consumers.”
Rivals, China and the US, are the world’s two largest economies.
– CAJ News