JOHANNESBURG: South African white maize prices more than doubled in 2015 to record highs on mounting concerns about a scorching drought, which has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern.
South Africa’s central bank, which is in a tightening cycle, has frequently expressed concern about the impact of the drought and food price pressures on inflation in Africa’s most advanced economy. White maize is the staple crop that provides much of the caloric intake for the country’s lower-income households.
The March contract climbed around 114 percent to end the year at a record R4 661 ($298) a tonne, according to Thomson Reuters’ data. Prices for yellow maize, used mostly for animal feed, have also scaled records. The March contract for yellow maize ended the year almost 70 percent higher at a record R3 690 a tonne. Drought conditions are likely to persist for the rest of the southern hemisphere summer, the national weather service said earlier in December.
The El Nino system, a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that occurs every few years with global consequences, has made the drought more intense. It follows a bad harvest last season when dry conditions shrivelled the crop by a third to 9,94 million tonnes, the lowest since 2007.