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Perspektief | Perspective Week 5|2019

01 Feb 2019

Petru Fourie, Agricultural Economist & Research Coordinator

In general, rain occurred in patches over most of the agricultural production areas, and following approximately two weeks of drought, the rain brought great relief. Sunflower is still being planted in the western parts of the country and in Limpopo. The planting window for all the other crops has already passed.

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Petru Fourie, Agricultural Economist & Research Coordinator

The Crop Estimates Committee's objective is to release, reliable, accurate and credible estimates to the agricultural industry. The late rain and late plantings made the estimate very challenging. Following the number of enquiries received by Grain SA regarding the preliminary area estimate released on Tuesday, it is clear that various and conflicting opinions exist. As a result of these diverse opinions, Grain SA received the following feedback from the Crop Estimates Committee:

Producer’s contribution

To shed some light on the calculation of the preliminary area estimate, it is critical that producers understand the impact of their participation in the calculation of this recent area, as released. Light aircraft is used by Spatialintelligence (SiQ) to do aerial observations, but whose data is only taken into account at the end of February. As a result, the Crop Estimates Committee relies mainly on farmers' inputs to determine the preliminary area in January. The maize area estimate of 2,227 million ha was thus almost entirely based on producer information. The importance of information provided by producers to the Crop Estimates Committee, cannot be overemphasised.

Table 1 indicate the number of producers who participated in the January month's area estimate. Because of the difficult season, the Committee endeavoured to get higher participation among producers. Grain SA would like to express its gratitude to each of the 421 producers who completed the Crop Estimates questionnaires. Many comments are expressed regarding the accuracy of the area published, but the uncertainty will only be addressed once all producers strengthen the Crop Estimates Committee, with information.

Table 1: Participation by maize producers during each JANUARY month's survey:

Year Number of producers % area representation
2016 403 9,1%
2017 386 8,5%
2018 389 8,7%
2019 421 10,4%


Deviation between area estimates

Table 2 indicate the difference between the preliminary (January) and final area estimates, since 2010. Each season provided its own challenges, which makes an accurate area estimate difficult. However, according to the % deviations, it is clear that the Crop Estimates Committee has provided good information when the lack of information at their disposal is taken into account. The biggest deviation during the 9-year period was in 2011 when the Committee estimated the January forecast, 5.7% higher than the final estimate. During the 9-year period, the final estimate increased five times, and decreased marginally 4 times.

Table 2: Area deviation from Final area vs. Preliminary Area planted

Season Provisional Area (January) Final Area Difference
Ha Ha % Ha
2010 2 627 200 2 742 400 4,4% 115 200
2011 2 515 800 2 372 300 -5,7% -143 500
2012 2 630 200 2 699 200 2,6% 69 000
2013 2 780 000 2 781 200 0,0% 1 200
2014 2 710 500 2 688 200 -0,8% - 22 300
2015 2 656 450 2 652 850 -0,1% -3 600
2016 1 995 150 1 946 750 -2,4% -48 400
2017 2 549 200 2 628 600 3,1% 79 400
2018 2 309 200 2 318 850 0,4% 9 650
2019 2 268 900 ? 
Average     1,0% 1573

1st Production estimate

It is important to note that the first three production estimates (February to April) are largely determined by and rely on producer information – through their monthly completed questionnaires. Grain SA urges every producer to complete the questionnaire which will be sent out February, as this will determine the size of the 1st production estimate. Establishing an accurate 1st estimate will only be possible if all producers participate. Producer information not only facilitate the committee's task, but also leads to credible published information, carrying more weight when establishing an estimate. It is therefore proven that improved participation by producers can lead to a more accurate estimate.

Please contact Rona Beukes, member of the Crop Estimates Committee, at (012) 319-8032 or RonaB@daff.gov.za to participate in the production estimate.


The latest edition of SA Graan/Grain is already available on Grain SA's website. Read more about the relevance of Grain SA's levy measured against other commodity levies; how to critically evaluate your cattle farming for sustainability; proposed changes in wheat grading as well as management practices for Sclerotinia head and stem rot. This issue also feature a mini-focus on groundnuts as well as canola.

The print version should be in readers' mailboxes by the second week of February.

Read the latest edition now


The Strategic Innovation Partnership for Grain and Oilseeds between Grain SA and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) focuses on optimising innovation efforts in grain and oilseed research on areas of strategic focus in the DST’s Agricultural Bio-economy Strategy.  This recently resulted in the signing of the partnership with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) an agency of the DST.


Marinda Visser, Manager: Grain Research & Policy Centre & Jannie de Villiers, CEO