South Africa maize planting area down over 12 percent on dry spell

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African maize farmers are expected to plant 12 percent less of the staple crop this season in the face of a dry, hot spell along the western growing areas, the government’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) said on Tuesday.

Farmers are believed to have planted 2.309 million hectares of maize compared to the 2.629 million hectares planted last season when favourable weather conditions boosted yields.

The latest government estimate is 7 percent higher than the 2.159 million hectares forecast in a Reuters’ poll of seven traders and analysts.

The average estimated from the poll pegs the crop at 1.285 million hectares of white maize, used for human consumption, and 1.205 million hectares of yellow maize used mainly in animal feed.

White maize plantings are down almost 22 percent while those for yellow are up 4 percent, the CEC said.

This is because the western maize belt where most of the white maize is grown has been hit by a mid-summer dry spell and heat wave while the eastern regions where yellow maize is mostly grown have had adequate rains.

There is also a surplus of over five-months worth of supply of white maize which is difficult to find export markets for, though a regional drought could create demand in countries such as Malawi and Zambia.

In the eastern maize belt, a Reuters correspondent who flew over the area last week saw many fields with high, green and healthy-looking stalks.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia)

Xolani

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