South Africa’s Wheat Crop May Be 12% Smaller Than Last Year

South Africa will probably reap 12 percent less wheat this season than a year earlier after it planted the smallest area on record with the grain, according to the Crop Estimates Committee.

Farmers are expected to harvest 1.76 million metric tons of wheat in the season compared with 2.01 million tons last year, Baldwin Netshifhefhe, the committee principal statistician, said by phone in Pretoria today. This is the smallest production since 2010 when it was 1.43 million tons, according to the committee’s website. The median estimate of five analysts was for 1.75 million tons.

The country planted 551,200 hectares (1.36 million acres) of wheat this season, down from 604,700 hectares a year earlier and the smallest since at least 1931 when records began, according to the committee. The previous estimate was 546,700 hectares on July 24.

“The decrease in wheat tonnages is because of lower prices,” Netshifhefhe said.

South African wheat prices have fallen 18 percent from a record 4,304 rand ($511) a ton in March 2008 to 3,510 rand a ton today.

The nation is a net importer of wheat and is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest producer of the grain after Ethiopia. South Africa is the region’s biggest importer after Nigeria and Sudan, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Canola Production

Production of canola will rise 12 percent to 66,135 tons, according to the committee. Soy output will be 1.3 percent smaller at 646,950 tons while production of sunflower, groundnuts, sorghum and dry beans will be unchanged. The revised estimate of malting barley plantings increased 5.9 percent to 84,940 tons while canola’s area climbed 1.4 percent to 44,110 tons, it said.

The committee raised its forecast of corn production by 3.3 percent to 11.2 million tons for the season through April, Netshifhefhe said. South Africa is the continent’s largest producer of the grain.

The forecast includes 6.36 million tons of white corn and 4.83 million tons of yellow corn, he said. The expected output compares with the July 24 forecast of 10.8 million tons and a median estimate of 11 million tons by eight traders surveyed by Bloomberg News.

“Producer deliveries are higher than expected,” he said.

The contract for December delivery of yellow corn, used mainly as animal feed in Africa’s biggest economy, declined 1.8 percent to 2,626 rand in Johannesburg. White corn for delivery in the same month dropped 2.4 percent to 2,641 rand.

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