Source: Wandile Sihlobo, Mail&Guardian, 1 September 2021
South Africa has not had three consecutive favourable agricultural seasons in a long time. But the 2021-22 season is likely to be an additional period of a prolonged cycle of favourable weather conditions and good agricultural activity in South Africa. The 2019-20 and 2020-21 production seasons were characterised by ample rainfall, which supported agricultural activity in the country and led to large harvests.
The typical cycles are two seasons of large agricultural output followed by a notable decline on the back of dryness. The only periods in the recent past that had three successive years of conducive weather conditions and a large crop harvest were in the 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10 production seasons. In this period, commercial maize production was more than 12-million tonnes each year, averaging 12.5-million tonnes a year.
A sharp decline in the maize area, specifically in the 2005-06 production season, characterised the seasons prior. This was primarily caused by dryness and resulted in a lower harvest of 6.6-million tonnes in 2005-06 and 7.1-million tonnes in the 2006-07 production season. Other key summer crops such as sunflower seed and soybeans registered similar dips in production, especially in the 2006-07 season.