South African farmers plant a third more maize as rains return

South African farmers have planted a third more hectares with maize this season following increased rainfall and favourable climate conditions, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.

South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) is expected to forecast the planted area at 2.6 million hectares, up 33.5 percent from the 1.947 million hectares planted last year, according to an average estimate of five traders and analysts polled by Reuters.

The range was 2.4 million to 2.8 million hectares. The poll is 7 percent higher than the CEC’s last forecast of 2.44 million hectares.

The CEC will issue its preliminary forecast for the area planted for the 2016/17 maize growing season on Jan. 26.

Improved weather conditions caused by a weak La Nina weather system, associated in southern Africa with increased rainfall and lower temperatures, are expected to encourage farmers to plant more than last season.

“The increase is due to good rain over the festive season,” said a trader.

Rainfall for the remainder of the summer season until April will be above normal according to the latest forecast from the South African Weather Service, helping to improve soil moisture and raise dam levels following a severe drought.

Industry group Grain SA, which forecast the plantings at 2.4 million hectares this season, sees a 2017 maize surplus which could reduce food price inflation in South Africa.

Prices for white maize hit record prices above 5,200 rand ($385) per tonne last January, pushing up food prices and helping to fuel inflation.

($1 = 13.5150 rand)


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