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South Africa Cuts Corn-Output Forecast 1.6% on Drought

South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer, cut its forecast for output of the grain by 1.6 percent because of drought in some growing regions, the Crop Estimates Committee said.

The nation may reap 11.6 million metric tons of corn this season, Marda Scheepers a spokeswoman for the committee, said by phone from Pretoria today. That is more than the median estimate of 11.5 million tons by seven analysts in a Bloomberg survey and lower than the 11.8 million-ton prediction made by the committee last month.

South Africa produced 12.8 million tons in 2010, the biggest crop since 1982. Meal made from white corn is one of the country’s staple foods and the yellow variety is mainly used as animal feed.

“Prolonged dry spells in the Northwest and Free State provinces” reduced the forecast, Scheepers said.

Farmers will probably sow 516,600 hectares (1.28 million acres) of wheat, 1.1 percent more than the area planted last season, the committee said.

The country’s farmers planted 551,200 hectares (1.36 million acres) of wheat last year, the smallest area since the start of record-keeping in 1931, according to the committee.

South Africa, which is a net importer of wheat, is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest producer of the grain and the region’s third-biggest importer of the grain after Nigeria and Sudan, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data on Bloomberg. The nation will reap 1.92 metric million tons wheat this season, the committee said on Feb. 26, matching its previous prediction.

The country’s growers may increase the area planted with canola 25 percent from last year to 55,000 hectares, while the area to be planted with malting barley will probably drop 7.4 percent to 78,8000 hectares, it said.

The committee kept its predictions for output of sunflower seeds, soybeans, groundnuts, sorghum and dry beans unchanged.

White corn rose 1.1 percent to 2,106 rand ($232) a ton by the close on the South African Futures Exchange, while the price of the yellow variety climbed 1.7 percent to 2,093 rand a ton.

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