Research will save SA’s wheat sector

Grain SA revises downwards maize import volumes
February 23, 2016
Grape farmers count losses from drought
May 25, 2016

South African winter crop farmers are at the planting season, with the National Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) indicating that wheat plantings could slightly decrease by 0,06% from last season, to 481 850ha. Winter wheat crop farmers were also hard hit by the drought in the 2015/16 season, having planted on 482 150ha, which was an increase of 1% from the area planted in 2014. Then, wheat production was down by 17% year-on-year (y/y), to 1,46 million tons.

While, the sustainability of the country’s wheat industry is partly supported by trade policy in the form of an import tariff, it is also important for the country to increase investments in seed breeding research. This would be an efficient way to seek increased yield varieties/seeds, which could lead to higher production, thereby reducing the country’s dependence on imported wheat.

Organised agriculture and government already have certain projects in place, but increased investments and collaboration with other researchers from the world’s leading wheat-producing countries could possibly accelerate the process. In the long term, it is increased investment in research, and not only trade policy, which will save the country’s wheat sector. The alternative will be an assured catastrophe, which will either manifest itself in the form of increased unemployment or higher food prices.