May 7 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s wheat crop declined seven percent in 2012 from a year earlier after farmers in the Free State province, the country’s biggest growing region after the Western Cape, planted 42 percent less of the grain.
The nation produced 1.87 million metric tons of wheat in the 2012 season, Marda Scheepers, a spokeswoman for the Pretoria-based Crop Estimates Committee, said by phone today. That’s less than the 2.01 million tons produced in 2011 and matches the median estimate by four analysts in a Bloomberg survey. It’s the smallest crop since 2010, when the country produced 1.43 million tons.
South Africa, which is a net importer of wheat, is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest producer of the grain and the region’s biggest importer after Nigeria and Sudan, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
The nation from April 25 raised the dollar-based reference price for locally produced wheat by 37 percent, increasing the level at which duties on imported grain have to be paid. Grain South Africa, the nation’s biggest representative of commercial growers, had asked the country’s trade commission to raise the reference price to $326 per ton to encourage output.
Farmers last year planted the smallest area of wheat since the start of record-keeping in 1931, and are expected to sow 516,600 hectares (1.3 million acres) this season, 1.1 percent more than last year, the Crop Estimates Committee said on April 25.
Wheat for July delivery, the most active contract, rose 0.5 percent to 3,459 rand per metric ton by the close on the South African Futures Exchange in Johannesburg.
The country’s canola crop climbed 34 percent to 79,000 tons from a year earlier, while malting-barley output declined 4.5 percent to 29,800 tons.
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