I keep a close eye on the Zimbabwe agricultural sector because of its potential impact on regional demand. Since the collapse of the sector after the land reform programme in the early 2000s, the country has been one of the key markets for South African maize. On average, South Africa's maize exports to Zimbabwe accounted for nearly a third of overall maize exports between 2001 and 2017, according to Trade Map data. This came to a halt in October, when Zimbabwe banned maize imports after a recovery in domestic production to 2.2  million tons - its largest harvest in 23 years. However, this season's production estimates point to a lower harvest. Recent data from the US Department of Agriculture shows that Zimbabwe's 2017-18 maize production could reach 1.2million tons, 46% lower than last season's bumper crop. This is largely due to a reduction in area planted, lower yields in some areas and unfavourable weather early in the season. The expected decline puts the country in a net impo...

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