South Africa’s Corn Harvest Forecast to Rise 7% This Year by UN

South Africa’s corn harvest is forecast to climb 7 percent this year after planting increased, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

Production is estimated to rise to 11.7 million metric tons from 10.9 million tons in 2011, the FAO wrote in a country report on its website dated yesterday. Corn exports are expected to fall in 2012-13 because of low stockpiles.

South Africa is the largest corn producer and exporter on the African continent, and shipments rose 20 percent to an estimated 2.4 million tons in the year through April, according to the Rome-based FAO. The jump in exports depleted stocks and prompted the country to import 420,000 tons of the grain.

“During the beginning of July 2012 domestic prices of maize increased sharply, buoyed by escalating international prices,” the FAO wrote, using another name for corn. “The comparatively tight supply situation in South Africa for 2012-13 marketing year compared to the previous year has also contributed to maintaining prices at high levels.”

Recent domestic price gains for corn follow a decline from record levels in January on the outlook for a larger 2012 crop, according to the FAO. Prices for the commodity have surged more than 50 percent in Chicago since mid-June after drought in the U.S. Midwest cut yield potential in the world’s largest producer.

Exports in 2011-12 included 1.1 million tons of corn shipped to Mexico, while surpluses in Malawi and Zambia limited regional export opportunities for South Africa, the FAO wrote. Shipments to southern African countries fell 18 percent to about 520,000 tons in 2011-12, and mainly went to Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, according to the report.

Favorable Harvests

“There was a notable decline in exports to neighboring southern African countries following the generally favorable harvests in several countries and the consequent reduction in import demand,” the FAO wrote.

South African wheat production is forecast to slide 20 percent this year to 1.62 million tons from 2.01 million tons after farmers planted less and because of dry weather and low soil moisture at the start of the planting period in Free State province, the main growing region, according to the UN agency.

“The reduction in planted area to wheat follows the comparatively low domestic prices in 2012,” the FAO wrote.

The wheat area is forecast to slide 10 percent to 547,200 hectares (1.35 million acres), it said.

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