After a year of generally subdued global rice prices, this year started with a notable increase in prices from various origins. With South Africa being a net importer of rice, the worldwide surge of prices presents upside risks to consumer food price inflation. The comforting part, however, is that South Africa will likely import the same volume of rice as the previous year. The International Grains Council (IGC) forecasts South Africa's 2023 rice imports at 1,1 million tonnes. This is roughly unchanged from 2022, when about 73% of the imports originated from Thailand, 23% from India, and the rest from various countries, including India, Pakistan, Brazil, and Vietnam. These origins will likely remain the same in 2023.
The drier weather conditions in the Western Cape, a major wheat producer in South Africa, have weighed on the 2022/23 wheat harvest. The impact of lower yields in parts of the province is evident in the recent Crop Estimates Committee's wheat production update, which placed the province's crop at 954 000 tonnes, down from 1,26 million tonnes in the 2021/22 season.
Since the start of the 2022/23 summer grains and oilseeds production season, we have maintained a positive view of the production conditions. The robust tractor sales, the La Niña-induced rains, and the relatively higher commodity prices were some of the factors that pointed to a decent area for summer crops in the 2022/23 season. The data recently released by the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) broadly mirrors our optimism, placing the 2022/23 total area plantings for summer crops at 4,31 million hectares of summer grains and oilseeds in the 2022/23 season. This is down by 0,7% from the previous season, and 0,9% from the intentions to plant data released earlier in the season.
The data released by Statistics South Africa this morning shows that consumer food price inflation slowed marginally to 12,7% in December 2022 from 12,8% in November. The product prices underpinning this moderation include meat, oils, and fats. For the whole of 2022, the consumer food price inflation averaged 9,5% (compared with 6,5% y/y in 2021 and 4,8% in 2020). Broadly, the high prices of grains, vegetable oils, and meat for much of 2022 were the primary drivers of consumer food price inflation. This was not a unique occurrence to South Africa, but a global challenge mirrored the surge in agricultural commodity prices in the first three quarters of 2022 and the year before. The agricultural commodities price increase emanated from various factors such as the drought in South America, higher shipping costs, strong agricultural product demand in China, and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Although we expect South Africa's agricultural gross value added for 2022 to have contracted, the year was generally favourable for the sector. The squeeze we anticipate results from mild declines in critical crop harvests such as maize, production challenges in the sugar industry, trade friction in fruits, vegetables, beef and wool, and widespread foot-and-mouth disease weighed on the sector's performance this year. In a slightly more technical sense, the strong growth in the previous two years -- 14,9% y/y in 2020 and 8,8% y/y in 2021 -- created an exceptionally high base, setting the ground for some pullback.
Rice ranks second in the four major agricultural products that South Africa imports annually and account for 7% of the US$6,9 billion spent on agricultural products imports in 2021. Other products are wheat, palm oil and poultry products. In volumes terms, South Africa imported about 1,1 million tonnes of rice, both for annual consumption and exports to the neighbouring countries. The latest data from the International Grains Council (IGC) suggests that this volume could remain unchanged in 2022. Thus, the IGC has maintained its estimate for this year at 1,1 million tonnes (Exhibit 1).