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South African Corn Stocks Drop to Lowest Level in 9 Months

South African corn stocks fell to the lowest level in nine months in February as increased exports and a smaller-than-expected harvest depleted reserves.

Stocks of the grain declined to 1.88 million metric tons, the smallest amount since May last year, from 2.56 million metric tons a year earlier, the South African Grain Information Service said on its website. The country had 1.27 million tons of white corn and 608,000 tons of yellow corn. The white variety is used as a staple food in South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer, while the yellow variant is used as animal feed.

Farmers exported corn to markets including South Korea, Taiwan and Spain in 2011 after a year earlier producing the biggest crop since 1982, depressing prices. The country started importing yellow corn in December, the first such shipments since the season through April 2010, according to Sagis.

“The harvest for the marketing year that ends in April has been about 400,000 tons smaller than we expected,” Theo Venter, market analyst at Senwes Ltd., said by mobile phone. “Exports have been higher than predicted, and this has lowered stocks.”

The limited availability of local corn stocks “has already been priced in,” Venter said.

White corn for July delivery, the most active contract on the South African Futures Exchange, declined 1 percent to 2,301 rand ($303) a ton in Johannesburg. The contract has gained 15 percent this year. Yellow corn for July delivery closed 0.5 percent lower at 2,199 rand.

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