South Africa May Harvest 2.8% More Wheat in 2016, Survey Shows

  • Local wheat plantings could rise slightly from last estimate
  • Corn output could stay the same as last month’s prediction

South African farmers will probably harvest more wheat this season as crops appear to be in a good condition due to rainfall in recent weeks while the corn-production estimate may stay the same, a survey showed.

Local farmers could harvest 1.48 million metric tons of wheat in 2016, a median estimate of six analysts the survey by Bloomberg showed. That would be 2.8 percent more than last year’s output of 1.44 million tons, but still the smallest since 2011, according to data on the South African Grain Information Service’s website. The range was 1.43 million tons and 1.6 million tons. The Crop Estimates Committee will release its prediction Thursday.

“The wheat crop is in good conditions throughout South Africa and benefited from the previous few weeks’ rainfall," Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

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.

The town of Paarl in the Western Cape province, the largest producer, received 20 millimeters (0.8 inch) of showers over the past 10 days, data on the South African Weather Service show, while Wellington got 21 millimeters. There were also rains in growing regions of the Northern Cape.

Wheat plantings could be revised up slightly to 486,500 hectares (1.2 million hectares), the median of six analyst estimates show. That would be 0.9 percent more than last season.

Corn Unchanged

The country, which is the continent’s biggest corn producer, will probably keep its estimate for production of the grain at 7.26 million metric tons, a median of 11 analysts in the same survey showed. The range was 6.8 million tons and 7.4 million tons. This harvest would be 27 percent lower than in 2015.

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.

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