At the start of 2017 I argued that the cessation of the crippling drought that lasted about four years would lead to a material recovery in food sector confidence, farming output and the maize harvest. SA’s 2016 maize crop of 7.7Mt was much smaller than those of previous years and than the 10Mt it needs for self-sufficiency. Safex prices surged to about R3,500/t due to the shortage. My call in January 2017 was that there would be a bumper maize harvest, due to early indications of favourable weather conditions and plant population health. In the end, 17.7Mt was harvested — SA’s biggest maize crop in history. It drove the price down 60%. Yellow maize was 40% lower on a yearly comparative. My top calls were for poultry stock Astral Foods as well as food manufacturer Pioneer Foods and its proxy, Zeder Investments, given the savings I envisaged from lower input costs. During early 2017 all looked promising. Both Astral and Pioneer started to run, as the market expected earnings recovery...

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