The subdued pace of food price inflation we observed in 2018 is over. The lower agricultural commodity prices that underpinned 2018’s downward trend are showing a drastic reversal as persistent dryness in the western parts of SA’s maize belt lead tolower-than-expected maize plantings and a general expectation of a poor harvest in the 2018/19 season. Earlier this week SA’s white and yellow maize spot prices were up by 66% and 44%, respectively, from the corresponding period in 2018, trading around R2,807/ton and R3,127/ton. The Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) estimates that SA farmers planted 1.98-million hectares of maize in the 2018/19 production season, 19% lower than the intended area of 2.44-million hectares owing to dryness. An official estimate will be released on January 29, but Agbiz figures are almost in line with the area planted during the drought period of the 2015/16 production year. At that time SA maize production amounted to 7.8-million tons, turning the countr...

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