SA raises maize-crop forecast to biggest in 36 years

Johannesburg - South Africa, the continent’s biggest maize producer, may reap the largest harvest of the grain in 36 years as rains improved yields and boost the crop’s size by 83% from last year, the Crop Estimates Committee said.

Growers will probably produce 14.3 million metric tonnes of corn in the season that ends in April, said Lusani Ndou, a senior statistician at the Pretoria-based committee. That would be the largest crop since 1981, and compares with the committee’s 13.92 million-tonne forecast on February 28, which was the same as the median prediction by four analysts in a March 23 survey by Bloomberg.

“Favorable production conditions led to improved yields,” Ndou said by phone Tuesday.

Rainfall recorded in January and February was more than double the average for the first two months of the year countrywide, according to the South African Weather Service. The improved conditions have given relief to farmers after the worst drought since records began in 1904 decimated crops, reducing domestic corn output to a nine-year low last season.

The committee maintained its forecast for the area sowed at 2.63 million hectares (6.5 million acres).

The country will probably produce 8.5 million tonnes of the white variety, used to make a staple food known locally as pap, and 5.8 million tonnes of yellow corn this season, the committee estimated.

The body decreased its prediction for sunflower-seed output this year by 3.5% to 896 060 tonnes, while the forecast for soybeans was raised 8.6% to 1.2 million tonnes. The estimate for sorghum production was increased 8.9% to 153 480 tonnes. It reduced the projection for groundnut output 1.8% to 86 600 tonnes, while it lifted the expectations for the drybean crop by 1.5% to 65 275 tonnes.


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