SA maize output seen doubling to record harvest

The fourth production forecast for the season will be the largest crop since 1981 which reached 14.656 million tonnes.

Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa will likely harvest a record 15.6 million tonnes of maize in 2017, double last year's output after favourable weather conditions lifted yields, the government's Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) said on Friday.

The forecast may further depress maize prices, which will help break inflation and food prices while cutting the margins for farmers, many of whom have high debts.

The fourth production forecast for the season, which is almost 6% higher than market expectations of 14.73 million tonnes, will be the largest crop since 1981 which reached 14.656 million tonnes, the CEC said.

The previous forecast called for a crop of 14.54 million tonnes.

The CEC said the crop will comprise an estimated 9.4 million tonnes of white maize, the regional staple mostly used for human consumption, and almost 6.2 million tonnes of yellow, the bulk of which goes to animal feed.

The 2016 harvest was only 7.78 million tonnes, with yields impacted by a drought triggered by an El Nino weather pattern, pushing up food prices and fuelling inflation.

The staple white contract for September fell 2.35% to R1,794 per tonne on Friday, about 65% lower than its record of over R5,200 in January last year.