South African farm machinery sales soared last month, in
what was taken as a sign of a boost to farmers' confidence from strong crop
prospects, even as growers in East Africa are grappling with a third failed
South African farmers bought 479 tractors last month, a rise
of 24% year on year, according to the South African Agricultural Machinery
Association, which flagged "quite positive" market sentiment, amid strong crop
"As farmers harvest their crops, they are better able to estimate
their production," said Lucas Groenewald, the association's chairman.
"Although crop prices are depressed because of the record
yields, they are better able to make considered decisions on buying equipment."
'Does boost farmers'
At industry group AgBiz, Wandile Sihlobo noted the 20
combines sold last month, flagged that, while up just one unit year on year,
this did represent the best June figure since 2014.
That was a "season that was also characterised by a bumper
crop," Mr Sihlobo said.
"This shows that a large harvest does boost farmers'
confidence to invest in equipment."
"While grain and oilseed prices are at lower levels due to
large supplies, higher yields per hectare could still compensate for lower
prices" in terms of boosting farm incomes.
The US Department of Agriculture on Wednesday restated at a
record 16.4m tonnes its estimate of the 2016-17 South African corn harvest,
double last season's drought-affected level.
South Africa's crop estimates committee pegs the country's
soybean harvest at a record 1.34m tonnes.
failed rainy season'
However, the latest sign of South Africa's agricultural
revival from successive drought-affected seasons came the United Nations cautioned
of a "third consecutive failed rainy season" in East Africa, which was "worsening
Areas including central and southern Somalia, south eastern
Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, northern Tanzania and north eastern and
south western Uganda have "received less than half of their normal seasonal
Some 16m people in these five countries require humanitarian
assistance, a rise of 30% since late 2016, the UN food agency, the Food and
Agriculture Organization, said.
"In Somalia, almost half of the total population
is food insecure," the FAO said, adding that the fall armyworm caterpillar pest
had spread to the region from South Africa, only worsening the crop outlook.
"In Kenya, the pest has so far affected about 200,000
hectares of crops."
The situation required "urgent and effective" support, said Dominique
Burgeon, the FAO's director of emergencies, noting "surging" grain prices.
"Prices in May were at record to near-record levels in most
markets and up to double their year-earlier levels," the FAO said.
However, AgBiz's Wandile Sihlobo, while flagging "large
volumes" of South African corn exports to Kenya of late, cautioned that Kenyan
curbs on genetically modified crops could put the brakes on the pace of
"Given that Kenya still has restrictions on the importation
of genetically modified maize [corn], South Africa's participation in that
market will most likely be limited for the foreseeable future," Mr Sihlobo said.