South Africa Cuts 2015 Corn-Crop Forecast as Soy Seen at Record

South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer, cut its estimate for production of the grain this season by 0.9 percent and forecast record soybean output, the Crop Estimates Committee said.

Local producers may harvest 9.755 million metric tons of corn this season, Marda Scheepers, a senior statistician for the Pretoria-based committee, said by phone Tuesday. That matches the median estimate by five analysts in a Bloomberg survey published June 24 and is less than the CEC’s May 26 prediction of 9.84 million tons. This would be the smallest 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.

The drought has caused local prices of white corn to surge 47 percent this year, while that of the yellow type has risen 27 percent. South Africa may produce 4.65 million tons of the white variety, used to make a local staple food, and 5.11 million tons of the yellow corn, which is used as animal feed, the CEC said.

The South African Development Community’s corn crop is estimated to fall to 26.1 million tons this year, the Food & Nutrition Security Working Group, set up by organizations including the World Food Programme and Food and Agricultural Organization, said in an e-mailed report.

The estimate for soybeans was increased 6.9 percent to 1.01 million tons, which would be the biggest harvest on record, Scheepers said.

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

The groundnut-crop estimate was lowered 5.8 percent to 62,855 tons. The forecast for sorghum was cut 8.5 percent to 114,700 tons, while that for dry beans was trimmed 3.2 percent to 73,390 tons.

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