South Africa Raises Corn-Crop Forecast to Biggest in 36 Years

  • Harvest seen 83% up on 2016’s, which was smallest since 2007
  • Committee increases corn-output estimate to 14.3 million tons

South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer, may reap the largest harvest of the grain in 36 years as rains improved yields and boost the crop’s size by 83 percent from last year, the Crop Estimates Committee said.

Growers will probably produce 14.3 million metric tons of corn in the season that ends in April, said Lusani Ndou, a senior statistician at the Pretoria-based committee. That would be the largest crop since 1981, and compares with the committee’s 13.92 million-ton forecast on Feb. 28, which was the same as the median prediction by four analysts in a March 23 survey by Bloomberg.

“Favorable production conditions led to improved yields,” Ndou said by phone Tuesday.

Rainfall recorded in January and February was more than double the average for the first two months of the year countrywide, according to the South African Weather Service. The improved conditions have given relief to farmers after the worst drought since records began in 1904 decimated crops, reducing domestic corn output to a nine-year low last season.

The committee maintained its forecast for the area sowed at 2.63 million hectares (6.5 million acres).

The country will probably produce 8.5 million tons of the white variety, used to make a staple food known locally as pap, and 5.8 million tons of yellow corn this season, the committee estimated.

The body decreased its prediction for sunflower-seed output this year by 3.5 percent to 896,060 tons, while the forecast for soybeans was raised 8.6 percent to 1.2 million tons. The estimate for sorghum production was increased 8.9 percent to 153,480 tons. It reduced the projection for groundnut output 1.8 percent to 86,600 tons, while it lifted the expectations for the drybean crop by 1.5 percent to 65,275 tons.

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