SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa will probably raise the estimate for wheat production this season 1.2% as recent rainfalls improve yields and crop conditions, a survey showed.

The country, which is the continent’s biggest maize producer, may maintain its forecast for the grain.

Local growers will probably produce 1.7-million tonnes of wheat this season, a median estimate of eight analysts in a Bloomberg survey showed.

That is more than the Crop Estimates Committee’s August prediction of 1.68-million tonnes, and would be 18% more than the 2015 season’s harvest.

The range was 1.66-million tonnes to 1.75-million tonnes. The committee will release its prediction September 27.

“Production conditions look excellent in the Western Cape, supporting yields,” Karabo Takadi, an agricultural economist at Barclays Africa’s agribusiness unit, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

While SA is the sub-Saharan region’s biggest producer of wheat after Ethiopia, it is still a net importer of the grain, according to US department of agriculture data.

Rain in the Western Cape, the largest growing province, are easing the driest conditions since records started in 1904.

Wheat futures have declined 20% since reaching a record on May 30 on the South African Futures Exchange.

The country will probably maintain maize-output estimate at 7.3-million tonnes, a median of nine analysts in the same survey showed.

The range was 7.29-million tonnes and 8.5-million tonnes. This harvest would be 27% lower than in 2015.

The country may need to import 3.8-million tonnes of maize this year, 1.1-million tons of which will be of the white type that is used to make a staple food, according to Grain SA, the largest lobby for grain and oilseed farmers.

In 2016, SA became a net importer of the grain for the first time since 2008 – Bloomberg

September 21, 2016;