South Africa's maize harvest seen marginally lower than previous estimate

Electricity pylons of South Africa power utility Eskom are seen above a maize field in Mpumalanga province, north of Johannesburg, in this picture taken March 1, 2016. [Reuters]
South Africa’s maize harvest forecast is expected to be slightly lower than previously estimated as crop yields could fall in some regions due to unfavourable weather conditions, a Reuter’s poll of five analysts showed on Friday.

The government’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) is seen pegging the harvest at 13.11 million tonnes in its seventh estimate, down 0.7 percent from the 13.207 million tonnes the CEC estimated in July.

The CEC left estimates unchanged at 13.207 million tonnes in the June and July forecasts.

“The CEC could slightly revise its estimate down due to reports of lower yields in some areas in the Western regions of the maize belt,” said Wandile Sihlobo, head agricultural economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber.

There was a delayed start to the 2018 season due to dry weather conditions as a result of low rainfall which persisted from late last year into early 2018, he said.

“This, however, should not dent South Africa’s standing in terms of maize supplies,” Sihlobo said.

The analysts polled expect the 2017/20118 harvest of the food staple white maize crop to be 6.83 million tonnes.

Yellow maize, which is mainly used in animal food production, is forecast at 6.29 million tonnes.

The white maize contract closing in September was down 0.99 percent at 2,297 rand by 1115 GMT on Friday, down from highs reached in January 2016 of 5,376 rand after a severe El-Nino induced drought impacted yields.

The South African Weather Service said last month that the likelihood of an El-Nino weather pattern was increasing as the country moved towards spring, which normally starts in September.

Commodity analyst at CJS Securities, Piet Faure says that South Africa currently has sufficient maize crop to carry it into 2019 and it is still too soon to predict the chances of El-Nino conditions developing.

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Maize FarmingSouth AfricaCrop Estimates CommitteeJohannesburgEl-Nino Rainfall