SA maize farmers expected to plant 35% more than last season

South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee is expected to forecast the planted area at 2.62 million hectares.

Maize. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG – South African farmers intend to plant 35% more hectares of maize than last season as improved weather conditions encourage them to sow, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.

South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) is expected to forecast the planted area at 2.62 million hectares, 35% higher than 1.947 million hectares planted last year, according to an average estimate of five trading houses polled by Reuters.

The range was between 2.42 million to 2.74 million hectares.

The poll is 7% higher than the previous CEC forecast of 2.44 million hectares as prospects of a wetter early summer, from November to January, had increased.

The CEC will give its forecast on intentions to plant on Thursday for the 2016/17 maize growing season, which has already started on the eastern edge of the maize belt.

Favourable weather conditions are expected to encourage farmers to plant more hectares than the previous season as a weak La Nina weather system associated with increased rainfall and lower temperatures develops.

“The recent rains should benefit planting,” said one trader who expects planting to return to pre-drought levels.

South Africa’s largest grain producer group, Grain SA, anticipates a maize surplus next year that could bring down the price of the staple crop following a severe drought brought by an El Nino weather pattern, which pushed up food prices and helped to fuel inflation.

Last season the CEC said the maize harvest was 25% lower at 7.5 million tonnes than the 9.95 million tonnes reaped the previous year.

South African white maize futures rose 1.3% on Tuesday to a two-month high of R3,960 a tonne. Its recent rally has been spurred in part by weakness in the rand currency but remains close to 25% below its record peak around R5,300 scaled in January.