South Africa Wheat Plantings Seen Rising as Rain Aids Crops

  • Area seen 0.7% bigger than farmers first intended for season
  • Nation may raise corn-output estimate by 0.5% from last month

South African farmers have probably planted more wheat than intended this season as rain in growing areas may improve the harvest, a survey showed.

Local producers may sow 485,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) with wheat in 2016, a median of five analysts in a Bloomberg survey showed. That’s 0.7 percent more than the forecast for intentions to plant released in April and 0.6 percent more than the area used last year. The range was from 482,000 hectares to 490,000 hectares. The Crop Estimates Committee releases the prediction on July 27.

“The winter wheat crops are in good conditions, particularly across the Western Cape province,” Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Wheat has benefited from the rainfall.”

While South Africa is the sub-Saharan region’s biggest producer of wheat after Ethiopia, it’s still a net importer of the grain, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. The driest conditions since records started in 1904 have damaged crops and livestock and sent local wheat prices to the highest on record in May, driving up food prices.

Wheat Price

Wheat for delivery in September fell 2.2 percent to 4,475 rand ($313) a metric ton by midday on the South African Futures Exchange in Johannesburg. Prices dropped for a fifth day, reaching the lowest for a most-active contract since April.

South Africa may raise its prediction for corn output this season to 7.2 million metric tons, 11 analysts in a Bloomberg survey said. That is 0.5 percent more than the 7.16 million tons estimated by the committee last month, but still about 28 percent lower than last year’s harvest. The range was 6.75 million tons and 7.3 million tons.

The country may need to import 3.8 million tons of corn this year, 1.1 million tons of which will be of the white type that’s used to make a staple food, according to Grain SA, the largest lobby for grain and oilseed farmers.

The country may not be able to source sufficient amounts of the white variety, Sihlobo said earlier this month. Outside of southern Africa, only Mexico is a major producer of white corn, and it doesn’t have much to export, according to Oxfam.

White corn for delivery in December fell 1.9 percent to 4,357 rand a ton, touching the lowest this year. The yellow type dropped 1.3 percent to 3,320 rand a ton.

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