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Agri Noord Kaap - Maize crop estimate could fall following dry weather damage

Maize. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

SA may cut its forecast for this season’s maize crop again as dry weather damages plants, a survey of analysts showed.

Local growers may produce 7-million tonnes, according to the median estimate of 11 analysts in a Bloomberg survey. That’s 0.8% less than last month’s projection of 7.054-million tonnes by the country’s Crop Estimates Committee and 30% lower than the 9.96 million tonnes produced in 2015.

“Farmers in the country have started harvesting,” said Wandile Sihlobo, head economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber. “The yields are reportedly below average.”

SA, usually a net exporter of agricultural products, may need to import 3.8-million tonnes of maize this year, according to Grain SA, the biggest lobby for grain and oilseed farmers. That is after rainfall last year declined to the least since 1904, damaging crops and raising prices. White maize is a staple food in SA, while the yellow type is mainly fed to animals.

The country imported 1.96-million tonnes in the marketing year ended April 29, the South African Grain Information Service said on May 4, making the nation a net importer for the first time since 2008.

“The key concern now is whether SA will be able to source the forecast 1.1-million tonnes of white maize imports in the global market,” Sihlobo said. “White maize is a scarce commodity this season. Even countries that will have small surpluses for export markets such as Mexico, the US and Zambia might not have enough.”

White maize for delivery in July dropped 2% to R4,950 ($314) a tonne on the South African Futures Exchange in Johannesburg. The yellow variety fell 0.4% to R3,605 a tonne, snapping five days of gains.

Agri Noord Kaap

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