South Africa Raises Corn, Wheat, Sunflower-Seed Crop Forecasts

  • Corn crop will still be smallest since 2007, data show
  • Local prices of grains have fallen from peaks earlier in 2016

South Africa raised its forecasts for production of corn, wheat and sunflower seeds as yields improved despite the worst drought on record.

Local farmers may reap 7.54 million metric tons of corn this season, Lusani Ndou, a senior statistician for the Pretoria-based Crop Estimates Committee, said by phone Tuesday. That’s 3.3 percent more than last month’s forecast and exceeds the 7.3 million-ton median prediction of nine analysts in a Bloomberg survey. It’s 24 percent less than the amount produced last year and would be the smallest crop since 2007.

Rains in recent months have helped ease driest conditions since records started in 1904, with the drought damaging crops and livestock. Local grain prices reached historic peaks earlier this year, and have subsequently dropped by at least 22 percent.

Following the drought, the country may need to import 3.8 million tons of corn by April 2017, a third of which will be the white type that’s used to make a staple food, according to Grain South Africa, the largest lobby for farmers of the crop. So far this season, the nation has imported 330,634 tons of the white variety compared with less than 7,000 tons a year earlier, Grain Information Service data show. The country this year became a net importer of corn for the first time since 2008.

The committee raised its forecast for white-corn output 5.1 percent to 3.3 million tons and raised its prediction for the yellow variety, used mainly to feed animals, 2 percent to 4.3 million.

Wheat Output

The CEC increased its estimate for wheat production by 1 percent this season as weather conditions in the two biggest-producing provinces improved.

Growers may harvest 1.7 million tons this season, Ndou said. This matches the median estimate by eight analysts in the Bloomberg survey, and would be the biggest harvest since the 2014 season.

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 forecast for sunflower-seed output was raised 1.7 percent to 755,000 tons, while that for soy was reduced 1.2 percent to 741,550 tons. Groundnut production may be 29 percent smaller at 18,850 tons. The estimate for dry beans was kept at 35,445 tons, while that of sorghum was trimmed 9.6 percent to 74,150 tons.

The committee increased its forecast for canola production by 0.1 percent to 102,060 tons and raised the prediction for malting-barley output by 1.5 percent to 291,595 tons.

The prediction for the area of wheat planted climbed 2 percent to 508,150 tons, the committee said.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE