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July 22, 2008

South Africa expecting bumper maize harvest

South Africa's Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) will likely up its forecast of the country's total maize output for the 2007/08 season due to favourable weather conditions.

An average estimate of ten traders polled showed the CEC was likely to raise its estimate for this season's maize crop to 11.69 million tonnes when it releases its sixth forecast on Thursday, up from 11.597 million in the fifth estimate.

The traders' estimates ranged between 11-12 million tonnes, with nine of the ten traders surveyed predicting the CEC would increase its estimate.

"There is a better crop yield because of favourable weather conditions. There have been good rains," one trader said.

Only one of the traders polled suggested the forecast would decrease from last month's estimate, citing lower than expected yields due to late rains and cold weather in some parts of the country's maize belt.

South Africa is the continent's largest maize producer, and the anticipated crop would see it reaping about 3 million tonnes more than its annual consumption of 8 million tonnes.

Official figures from the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) last week showed farmers had so far delivered 7.36 million tonnes of maize to silos.

With deliveries averaging about 900,000 tonnes each week for the past month, latest delivery figures to be released on July 23 could show the country passing its yearly consumption.

Some traders have said silos are filling up and some producers are facing difficulties in submitting their crops to silos.

"The crop seems to be coming in quite good. There are some full silos," another trader said.

The bumper crop could also build a case for South Africa including maize in its biofuels production strategy.

Last year the government initially said it would not include maize in the early stage of the biofuels strategy due to fears that there would not be enough maize to supply the bio-ethanol industry and also maintain food security.

However, after widespread criticism for the decision, Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana said the cabinet would not exclude maize from the biofuels policy as long as it was produced in surplus.


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