South African farmers may produce 3.4 percent less wheat this season than a year earlier, making it the smallest harvest since 2010, the Crop Estimates Committee said. It also lowered the planted area forecast.
Local growers may reap 1.69 million metric tons in the 2015 season compared with 1.75 million tons last year, Marda Scheepers, a senior statistician for the Pretoria-based committee, said by phone Wednesday. It is less than the 1.76 million-ton median prediction by four analysts in a Bloomberg survey.
“The decline can attributed to lower-than-expected yields in the Western Cape and Free State provinces,” Scheepers said.
While South Africa is the sub-Saharan region’s biggest producer of the grain after Ethiopia, it’s still a net importer of wheat, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
The committee estimated the area planted with the cereal at 477,650 hectares (1.18 million acres), lower than the 478,300 hectares in a median estimate of five analysts in a Bloomberg survey.
The canola harvest may be 7.4 percent smaller than last year at 112,000 tons after the committee cut its prediction for area planted by 8 percent to 80,000 hectares. South Africa may produce 334,033 tons of malting barley, 11 percent more than in 2014, while its area was increased to 93,730 hectares.
Corn output in the continent’s biggest producer of the grain was raised 0.9 percent to 9.84 million tons this season, Scheepers said. That is more than the 9.7 million-tonmedian estimate of seven analysts in a Bloomberg survey published Aug. 21 and is higher than the CEC’s July 28 prediction. This would be the smallest crop since 2007, when the nation produced 7.13 million tons.
The harvest in the main growing provinces of the Free State and North West, which together contributed 64 percent of the nation’s crop in 2014, didn’t receive enough rain during planting. The country started imports for the first time in 11 months in March as the worst drought since 1992 damaged plants.
The drought has caused local prices of white corn, used to make a staple food known as pap, to surge 45 percent this year. The yellow type, used mainly as animal feed, has risen 30 percent.
The estimates for soybean, sunflower seeds, groundnuts and dry beans were unchanged from last month’s forecast.