SA on track to harvest record soya bean crop

Soya bean input costs are lower than that of maize, which increases farmers’ profitability and sustainability.

16 June 2021 | Agriculture

ANNELIE COLEMAN

SOUTH AFRICAThe current spike in soya bean production is good news for South Africa since it will mean that significantly less of the commodity will need to be imported.

Local processing facilities will also benefit from the growing production, as higher volumes would reduce processing cost per unit, agricultural economist Dr Johan Willemse told Farmer’s Weekly.

He ascribed the increase in the number of hectares being planted to improved cultivars that made expansion in the western summer grain production areas possible.

This trend was expected to continue over the next few years.

“According to [the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy’s 2020 baseline report, soya bean production is projected to exceed 2.2 million tonnes by 2029, supported by continued area expansion and an average yield growth of about 4% annually,” Ikageng Maluleke, Grain SA economist, said in a statement.

She explained local producers had increased the area planted to soya bean by 64,4% since 2016/0717, and this season a soya bean crop of 1.1 million was being forecast, which would be the highest on record.

Expansion

Soya bean were now being successfully produced in areas such as Bothaville in the Free State and Schweizer Reneke in North West, and was an ideal commodity to be included in a crop rotation system. Not only does it put nitrogen back into the soil, it also breaks disease cycles, Willemse said.

In addition, soya bean input costs were lower than that of maize, which increased farmers’ profitability and sustainability.

“At the moment, maize input costs hover around R13 000/ha while it costs about R10 000/ha to plant soya bean.” At the time of publishing, the soya bean producer price stood at R7 300/t.

“Calculated at a yield of between 2t/ha and 3t/ha, it is a profitable crop indeed,” he said.

According to Maluleke, during the 2020/2021 marketing season South Africa exported 1 060t of soya bean, 99 000t soya bean oilcake, and almost 139 000t soya bean oil.

Export opportunity

“Although this may not seem like much, with the rapid increase in production, export markets need to be further explored. At the moment South Africa exports soya bean to Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, with Turkey the only country on record outside of Africa with 27 000t exported in 2018/2019,” she added.

Although some soya bean products had previously been exported to East African countries, the Middle East, the EU, and China, these were small quantities compared to that being exported to the SADC region. However, these regions would be great markets to focus on in future, according to Maluleke.

Willemse confirmed, however, that South Africa remained a net importer of soya bean meal.

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