Astral Foods, the JSE’s biggest poultry producer, issued a dour trading update on Tuesday, warning of “significantly lower" 2019 first-quarter profit. Lower consumer demand and a higher maize price, which is a key production input in the poultry sector, look set to hamper Astral’s profitability in the first half of the 2019 financial year. Astral's share price rose 0.65% to R157.50 by 3.15pm, but independent analyst Anthony Clark said he still expected some price negativity with a dose of “maize and poultry reality” setting in. He said the recent rally in Astral’s share price, which has risen more than 8% since January 28, was unjustified based on “on-the-ground” maize fundamentals. “Astral Foods has had an 8% run the past weeks on the first Crop Estimate Committee report on maize hectares planted. That report was flawed and overly optimistic because late-planting had prejudiced the numbers.” Clark said the late-February first production report and later reports (due to late planti...

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