SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa has increased its forecast of this year’s record crop after farmers improved their yields. South Africa is Africa’s top maize producer.

Growers will probably reap 15.97 million metric tons of corn in the 2017 season, Lusani Ndou, a senior statistician at the Pretoria-based Crop Estimates Committee, said by phone on Tuesday.

That’s more than double the 7.78 million tons produced a year earlier when the worst drought since records began more than a century ago reduced the harvest to a nine-year low.

The committee increased its estimate by 2.2% from the 15.63 million tons it projected in June. The forecast is higher than the 15.8 million tons in a Bloomberg survey of analysts and traders last week.

The committee expects a harvest of 9.51 million tons of the white variety of maize, used mostly to make pap, and 6.46 million tons of yellow maize this season.

The yellow variety for December delivery, the most active contract, gained for the first time in a week, rising 0.6% to R2 006 a ton, on the Futures Exchange in Johannesburg on Thursday.

December-delivery white maize gained as much as 1% to R1 892.40.

The forecasts for sunflower-seed, soybeans, groundnuts and sorghum output were left unchanged. Drybean production may be 0.1% higher than previously estimated at 68 525 tons.

Winter crop

Farmers will probably plant 498 850 hectares of wheat in 2017, the committee said.

That would be 1.9% lower than the 508 365 hectares planted a year earlier, below the estimate in a Bloomberg survey for 502 000 hectares.

While South Africa is the sub-Saharan African region’s biggest producer of wheat after Ethiopia, it’s still a net importer of the grain, according to US Department of Agriculture figures.

Farmers will probably plant 87 000 hectares of canola, 28% more than last year, and 98 800 hectares of malting barley, the committee said.

July 27, 2017: Fin24