South Africa Raises 2015 Corn-Crop Estimate 0.8% on Higher Yield

South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer, raised its forecast for production of the grain this season by 0.8 percent, the Crop Estimates Committee said.

Local farmers may harvest 9.8 million metric tons of corn this season, Marda Scheepers, a senior statistician for the Pretoria-based committee, said by phone Tuesday. That is more than the median estimate by six analysts in a Bloomberg survey published May 21 and exceeds last month’s prediction. This would be the smallest corn crop since 2007, when the nation produced 7.13 million tons.

The harvest in the main growing provinces of the Free State and North West, which together made up 64 percent of the nation’s crop in 2014, didn’t receive enough rain during planting. The country started imports for the first time in 11 months in March as the worst drought since 1992 damaged crops.

“Results in the Free State pointed to higher yields,” Scheepers said.

The drought has caused local prices of white corn to surge 33 percent this year, while that of the yellow type has risen 13 percent. South Africa may produce 4.7 million tons of the white variety, used to make a local staple food, and 5.1 million tons of the yellow corn, which is used as animal feed.

Farmers are expected to harvest 612,400 tons of sunflower seed in 2015, the committee said, unchanged from its previous forecast.

The estimate for soybeans was kept at 942,850 tons, while that for groundnuts was maintained at 66,725 tons. The forecast for sorghum was cut 10 percent to 125,400 tons, while that for dry beans was kept at 75,815 tons.

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