South Africa Will Probably Cut Corn Production Estimate Further

  • Median is lower than April forecast by the Estimates Committee
  • Farmers have started harvesting, with yields below average

South Africa, the continent’s top corn producer, may cut its forecast for this season’s crop again as dry weather damages plants, a survey of analysts showed.

Local growers may produce 7 million metric tons, according to the median estimate of 11 analysts in a Bloomberg survey. That’s 0.8 percent less than last month’s projection of 7.054 million tons by the country’s Crop Estimates Committee and 30 percent lower than the 9.96 million tons produced in 2015.

"Farmers in the country have started harvesting," Wandile Sihlobo, head economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber, an industry group, said by e-mail. "The yields are reportedly below average."

South Africa, usually a net exporter of agricultural products, may need to import 3.8 million tons of corn, known as maize locally, this year, according to Grain SA, the biggest lobby for grain and oilseed farmers. That’s after rainfall last year declined to the least since 1904, damaging crops and raising prices. White corn is used as a staple food known locally as pap, while the yellow type is mainly fed to animals.

The country imported 1.96 million tons in the marketing year ended April 29, the Pretoria-based South African Grain Information Service said May 4, making the nation a net importer for the first time since 2008.

"The key concern now is whether South Africa will be able to source the forecast 1.1 million tons of white maize imports in the global market," Sihlobo said. "White maize is a scarce commodity this season. Even countries that will have small surpluses for export markets such as Mexico, the U.S. and Zambia might not have enough." 

White corn for delivery in July dropped 2 percent to 4,950 rand ($314) a ton on the South African Futures Exchange in Johannesburg. The yellow variety fell 0.4 percent to 3,605 rand a ton, snapping five days of gains.

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