S. Africa Seen Cutting Corn-Output Estimate 2.5% on Drought

  • Crops experiencing `severe drought stress,' economist says
  • Rains received insufficient as heat damaged nation's crops

South Africa may trim its estimate for corn production this season by 2.5 percent because of damage from the worst drought in more than a century, a survey showed.

The Crop Estimates Committee may say that farmers will harvest 7.1 million metric tons this year, the median prediction of 10 analysts in a Bloomberg survey shows. That’s less than the Feb. 25 forecast of 7.26 million tons by the CEC, and would be the smallest amount since 2007. It would also be 29 percent less than the 9.96 million tons produced in 2015.

South Africa, the continent’s largest producer of corn, may need to import 3.8 million tons this year to supplement domestic supplies, according to Grain SA, the biggest lobby group for grain and oilseed farmers. That’s after rainfall last year declined to the least since 1904, when the weather service’s records began. White corn is used as a staple food known locally as pap, while the yellow type is mainly fed to animals.

“The recent rainfalls are welcomed, but were not sufficient and not widespread throughout the summer crop-growing areas,” Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at Grain SA, said in response to e-mailed questions. “Generally, crops are experiencing severe drought stress and rains in the next few days are crucial, even though it is already too late in some areas.”

Local Rain

In the first 10 days of March, a total of 577 millimeters (22.7 inches) fell in towns of the Free State region, data on the South African Weather Service show. Towns in the North West province received 479 millimeters of rain. The two areas accounted for approximately 55 percent of the nation’s total corn output in 2015, according to the committee’s data.

The committee will release its latest forecast on March 30. The range of estimates was 6.47 million tons to 7.26 million tons.

White corn for delivery in July fell 0.4 percent to 4,760 rand ($312) a ton on the South African Futures Exchange, declining a third day. Yellow corn dropped 1 percent to 3,235 rand a ton.

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