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December 09, 2008

South Africa reaps bumper maize crop for 2007/08

by Muchena Zigomo

South Africa's 2007/08 season maize crop soared almost 80 percent to 12.70 million tonnes, its biggest crop in about 13 years, beating an official forecast, the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) has said.

The CEC said maize crop yields were higher than it had anticipated. It had expected 2.02 million tonnes, compared with 7.125 million tonnes produced in the 2006/07 season. Traders' had forecast 12.14 million tonnes.

The crop comprised 7.48 million tonnes of white maize and 5.22 million tonnes of yellow, the CEC said when it released final production figures for the country's summer crops after the market closed.

"It was higher than I expected, but I'm happy with it. I think it's fairly accurate," a Johannesburg trader said.

Another trader said: "The fact that we've gone higher than most people expected will probably see (maize futures prices) coming down a bit tomorrow. But most guys had priced in a crop of over 12 million (tonnes)."

The benchmark December white maize contract closed 2.4 percent down at 1,709 rand a tonne on Thursday, while yellow maize for delivery in the same month dropped 2.81 percent to 1,660 rand a tonne.

July white maize also ended down 2.71 percent at 1.795 rand a tonne and yellow maize for delivery in that month fell 2.76 percent to 1,764 rand a tonne.

The traders said the fall had partly been due to expectations of the CEC bumper crop figures.

The CEC said its survey had taken into account actual deliveries by farmers to silos, which were at 11.25 million tonnes on Wednesday according to the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS).

The CEC also factored in maize used and retained on farms by farmers which was not submitted to official silos. Traders estimate the on-farm retentions to be about 500,000 tonnes.

The crop is likely to ease worries about soaring food prices in Africa's biggest maize producer, as increased supplies could mean lower costs.

South Africa has been a net exporter of the staple maize this season, and has sold over a million tonnes to countries in the region and further afield.


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