South Africa Raises Corn-Output Estimate; Watering Boosts Yields

  • Nation’s corn crop still set to be smallest since 2008
  • Irrigation in North West boosts yields in that province

South Africa raised its corn-production forecast for the first time this season as better yields were reported in a key growing province after farmers resorted to irrigating plants amid a drought, the Crop Estimates Committee said.

Local farmers may reap 7.16 million metric tons of corn this season, Marda Scheepers, a senior statistician for the Pretoria-based committee, said by phone Thursday. That is 1.5 percent more than the committee’s forecast last month and exceeds the 7 million-ton median estimate of 11 analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Despite the increase in the prediction, this would be the smallest crop since 2008

South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn grower and usually a net exporter of agricultural products, may need to import 3.8 million tons of corn 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 increase is “mainly based on better yields in the Free State and North West” provinces, Scheepers said. In the Free State, which produced 40 percent of last year’s harvest, yields were better in the eastern parts than in the west, while in the North West province, the No. 3 grower in 2015, farmers irrigated more of the crop, she said.

The nation raised its sunflower-seed output estimate 1.7 percent to 742,750 tons, while that for soybeans was increased 4.9 percent to 728,650 tons. The groundnut forecast was cut 2.9 percent to 31,600 tons. The prediction for dry beans was maintained at 38,095 tons while that for sorghum was kept at 88,500 tons.

Yellow-corn imports need to rise 25 percent to 51,000 tons a week to meet requirements, while South Africa isn’t likely to produce enough of the white variety to meet the 1.1 million tons required by consumers, the Pretoria-based lobby Agricultural Business Chamber said May 23.

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