Throwback Thursday – The historic origin of grain

(adapted from Time Cultivates Winners. Senwes – A century of agriculture by Elize van Eeden)

A moment in History

Maize as a product was introduced in the 1600s, soon after Spanish explorers had returned from exploring South America. Portuguese explorers brought maize to Ghana and after 1652, a group of employees of the Dutch East Indian Company stimulated the cultivation of maize in the Cape.  The Dutch then dubbed maize ‘turchse tarwe”.  The Portuguese at the Gold Coast (Ghana) called it “mihlo” and the Spaniards called it “maise”. The Afrikaans term “mielie” is said to be derived from a combination of the two. History suggests that it is mostly the African culture that popularised maize consumption. 

In comparison to the maize pioneer America, where 70 percent of the world’s maize was produced by the 1900s, the production figures of South Africa were meagre, but by the 1930s, maize took up approximately 40 percent of the total cultivated surface in the agricultural landscape.

From the 1940s to May 1995, the Maize Board regulated maize prices in South Africa, after which a new marketing policy was adopted, which had a significant influence on maize sales. By that year, yellow maize was still popular in the fodder market. Since 1909 Senwes received yellow maize as an eighth-grade grain product. By the nineties going into the twentieth century, what initially started as a trend now swung around to sales for human consumption, which increased annually.