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November 28, 2010

South Africa harvests biggest maize crop in 30 years

by Olivia Kumwenda

South Africa's May 2009-April 2010 maize harvest rose 6 percent from the previous season, making it the country's biggest crop in three decades, the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) said on November 25 .

South Africa reaped 12.815 million tonnes of maize in the 2009/10 season, compared with the previous year's harvest of 12.05 million tonnes.

The crop was lower than the committee's final forecast of 13.043 million tonnes and also slightly less than traders' estimates of 13 million tonnes, according to a Reuters poll.

South Africa is Africa's largest maize producer and the crop is the country's biggest harvest since the 14.423 million tonnes reaped in the 1980/81 season, the CEC said.

The CEC usually bases its survey on actual deliveries of maize from farms to silos and maize retained on farms, which was not submitted to the official silos.

Data from the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) showed that farmers had brought 11.67 million tonnes of maize to market by the week of November 19.

The big yield has caused concerns among farmers about falling prices of the grain as Africa's biggest economy struggles to secure export markets to cushion the fall.

South Africa's benchmark December white maize contract has fallen 23 percent so far this year, with yellow maize for delivery in the same month falling 13 percent.

The CEC said last month farmers intend to cultivate less land in the 2010/11 season due to prevailing lower prices.

South African farmers planted 2.74 million hectares of maize this year compared with 2.43 million hectares the previous season.


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