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May 06, 2009

South African maize exports to drop

by Carli Lourens

South Africa, the biggest maize grower on the continent, may export less of the grain this year as higher input costs crimp plantings.

“Input costs are high, so farmers are going to plant less,” Thys Grobbelaar, an analyst at Klerksdorp-based Senwes Ltd., said by phone today. White and yellow corn shipments combined may drop to about 1.5 million metric tons from 2.16 million tons in the marketing year ended May 1, he said, adding that’s his personal estimate. Senwes stores and sells maize.

South Africa’s maize crop may decline 12 percent to 11.2 million tons this year as plantings fall, the government said Feb. 24. Farmers harvested 12.7 million tons last year, the biggest crop in 26 years.

That boosted white maize exports almost fivefold to 1.89 million tons in the 12 months through May 1, from 396,832 tons a year earlier, South African Grain Information Service, or Sagis, said on its Web site today. Yellow corn exports climbed almost fourfold to 266,066 tons from 72,227 tons a year earlier.

“Exports will be lower this year, because obviously we’re sitting on less total available supply,” said Andrew Fletcher, a South African Futures Exchange trader at Unigrain Ltd. “I hardly see any imports.”

Yellow maize imports fell about 98 percent to 27,432 tons in the marketing year to May 1, from a year earlier, Sagis said.

South Africa will probably have no maize imports this year, Andre Smit, a trader at Bester Feed & Grain Exchange Ltd., said. The country no longer suffers from transport constraints that hurt distribution and necessitated imports last year.

White maize for delivery in July gained 14.80 rand, or 1 percent, to 1,521.80 rand ($183) a ton on the South African Futures Exchange in Johannesburg today.


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