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November 10, 2011

South African soya bean productiion up

by Shannon Sherry

South African farmers are continuing to expand the country’s production of soya beans, with a record area to be planted for the fifth consecutive season next year.

With yields — the amount produced on each hectare — also having improved over the years, the largest harvest yet of the protein-rich crop is expected in 2012.

Lower maize prices last year and better returns for oilseeds ( which include canola and sunflower) persuaded farmers to divert land from maize to soya beans. Land planted with the beans was increased by more than a third to last season’s 418000ha.

The agriculture department’s crop estimates committee put its final soya bean figure for 2011 at 708750t. Based on the tally it made last month of farmers’ intentions to plant, the committee projects that this will be expanded by a further 10% to about 460000ha in the next season. By comparison, plantings of sunflower are expected to decline by more than 13% to 555000ha.

This makes soya beans the fastest- growing of the crops counted by the committee.

Soya is not a new crop in SA. Farmers have grown it for four decades. But SA has always been a net importer of soy products, though it is Southern Africa’ largest grower.

The main imports are soy oilcake, used for animal feed, and soy oil, used for cooking and producing biodiesel. About 99% of the oilcake and 69% of the oil used in SA is imported from Argentina.

Though SA imports the processed products, in the past it has exported raw soya beans. But an analytical study by the National Agricultural Marketing Council and business solutions group TechnoServe says this was when export prices were attractive and the country’s low processing capacity could not cope with demand for the processed products.

And though the output is growing, Scholtemeijer says it is still some way off the optimal required for the industry in SA. “The proportion of maize land and land planted with soya beans is roughly 88% and 12%. Ideally it should stand at two-thirds and one-third.”

It will mean more than doubling the current area used to grow soya beans to 930000ha.

The agriculture, forestry and fisheries department last year produced a farming production guideline for soya beans, detailing how and when to plant and the way to care for, harvest, handle and store the crop.

The council study says there is an opportunity for smallholder farmers to produce soya beans but that about 98% of current production is by commercial farmers.

“For smallholder farmers to make the most of their land, soya must become a culturally acceptable part of the diet , and partnerships between commercial and smallholder farmers must increase,” it says.

Mpumalanga accounts for about 42% of SA’s soya bean crop, followed by the Free State (22%), KwaZulu Natal (15%), Limpopo (8%), North West (5%) and Gauteng (2%).

Scholtemeijer believes South Africans across the board should be educated about the benefits of soya beans.

“Soya has been wrongly portrayed as being for poor people, but it has health benefits for all. It is already being used in cereals, bread, snacks, polonies and many other products.”


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