Maize planting area seen down 14% from last season

South African maize farmers are expected to plant 14% less of the staple crop in the 2018/2019 season compared with the previous season after dry conditions delayed plantings outside the optimum window.

South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) is expected to forecast the planted area at 1.998 million hectares, down from the 2.318 hectares planted last season, according to an average estimate of five traders and analysts polled by Reuters.

The range of total maize estimates was 1.94 million to 2.07 million hectares.

The poll estimates that 18% less maize will be planted compared with the CEC’s October estimate of 2.448 million hectares.

“Uncertainty on hectares planted for maize remains high after the lack of and insufficient seasonal rains caused farmers to delay preparation and planting of crops and in some cases entirely prevented others planting at all, especially in the North West and Free State provinces,” said trader and director at Riddermark Capital Warren Langridge.

The average estimated from the poll pegs the crop at 1.08 million hectares of white maize, used for human consumption, and 0.99 million hectares of yellow maize used mainly in animal feed.

Concerns over yields have pushed up maize prices, with the white maize futures contract due in March up 2.76% at R3 088 by the close on Friday, just under a two-year high of R3 255 reached last week.

“Follow-up rains are critical to ensure decent yields, otherwise, the 2019 output might decrease to the drought levels of three years ago,” said FNB Senior Agricultural economist Paul Makuba.

The CEC will issue its preliminary forecast for the area planted for the 2018/2019 maize growing season on Tuesday.

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