South Africa 2016 Corn Plantings Seen at Smallest Since 2011

  • Nation's corn area to fall 3.8% because of lack of rains
  • Wheat-output estimate reduced 5.7% due to Swartland dryness

Farmers in South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer, will cut 2016 season plantings of the grain to the smallest since 2011 because of poor rains in the biggest growing regions, the Crop Estimates Committee said. Drought has also reduced its prediction for wheat output.

Growers will probably sow 2.55 million hectares (6.3 million acres) with the grain in the 2016 season, Marda Scheepers, a spokeswoman for the committee, said by phone from Pretoria Tuesday. That compares with the final prediction of 2.65 million hectares for 2015 and is less than a median estimate of 2.7 million hectares by five analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

"A lack of rain in the most important maize-producing areas and a switch to oilseeds” contributed to the decline, Scheepers said.

The worst drought since 1992 this year hurt crops in the Free State and North West provinces, which accounted for almost two-thirds of corn output in 2014, and prompted the nation to start importing the grain. Corn is mainly planted in the summer months of October to December. The committee predicts the 2015 season’s harvest will be 9.84 million metric tons, the smallest since 2007.

The soybean-planting area will probably climb 1.3 percent to 696,400 hectares, the largest on record. Sunflower-seed plantings may be 6.6 percent higher at 614,000 hectares, while the groundnut area is set to drop 23 percent to 44,700 hectares. Sorghum plantings may climb 6 percent to 74,750 hectares and dry beans may drop 20 percent to 51,500 hectares.

The committee cut the wheat-production forecast by 5.7 percent to 1.54 million tons this season, which would be the least since 2011. The median of five analysts’ predictions was for 1.62 million tons.

“Dry conditions in the Swartland resulted in lower yields,” Scheepers said, referring to the main growing region in the Western Cape. The province produced 51 percent of the country’s wheat in 2014.

The prediction for malting-barley output was little changed at 347,017 tons, while that of canola was maintained at 105,400 tons.

While South Africa is the sub-Saharan region’s biggest producer of wheat after Ethiopia, it is still a net importer of the cereal, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

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