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Farmers have planted less land with maize this season after record rains caused waterlogged fields.

Farmers planted about 2.61-million hectares this season, a 5.3% decline compared with the previous year, Lusani Ndou, a senior statistician at the department of agriculture, forestry & fisheries’s crop estimates committee, said by phone on Thursday.  SA is Africa’s biggest maize producer.

That’s after many areas in six of the nine provinces, including those in the maize belt, experienced the most rainfall on record in December since tracking by district began in 1921. The country is experiencing the La Nina weather phenomenon, which usually causes above normal rainfall in the region.

At about 1.57-million hectares, the area under white maize, a staple food, is 6.87% smaller than a year earlier. The land allocated to yellow maize, generally used for animal feed, is seen down 2.77% to 1.03-million hectares. Plantings of soy, peanuts, dry beans and sorghum also fell. 

“Now that we have the plantings data, the discussion will likely shift to yields,” Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of SA, said by text message. “The areas such as the western regions of the Free State, North West, and parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, which received heavy flooding, could realise lower yields than the previous season.”

The first national production forecast will be released in a month’s time.

Other major global grain suppliers also suffered poor weather this season, with drought hitting Canada and heavy rains falling in Europe during its harvest. The International Grains Council forecasts world stockpiles at a six-year low.

The committee raised its estimate for the nation’s wheat crop, grown in the winter by 2.6% from the previous month to 2.2-million tonnes.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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