A hawker prepares a cob of corn at his makeshift shop in Soweto
South Africa seen planting 7 percent more maize hectares next season
By Patricia Aruo
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African farmers are forecast to plant 7 percent more hectares of maize in 2018/2019 compared with the current season in anticipation of improved weather, a Reuters poll of four analysts showed on Friday.
The Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) is expected to say that farmers will plant 2.469 million hectares of maize, compared with 2.318 million hectares in the 2017/2018 season. The range was between 2.378 million and 2.570 million hectares.
The staple food white maize planted is seen increasing 9.21 percent to 1.385 million hectares from 1.268 million hectares in the 2017/18 season.
Farmers are expected to sow 1.084 million hectares of yellow maize in the 2018/2019 season.
The CEC will give its first forecast on intentions to plant on Thursday for the 2018/19 maize growing season.
"Good rains have fallen and if we have decent follow up rains, the area for maize can increase," said Piet Faure, commodities analyst at CJS Securities.
However, some analysts have said that estimates are more difficult to make early this season with the uncertainty about the severity of the anticipated El Nino weather conditions later in the season.
"It is still early in the season with many variables still to play out, one of which should be closely watched, the increased chances of an El Nino developing," said Warren Langridge, director and grain trader at Riddermark Capital.
CJS Securities' Faure however said the El Nino's impact could be more limited. "There is about a 70 percent chance of a weak El Nino later," he said.
The 2017/2018 harvest estimated by the CEC in its final production was 13.207 tonnes, 21 percent lower than the 16.744 million tonnes harvested by farmers in 2016/2017, after low rainfall led to a late commencement of the planting, resulting in a slower pace of delivery.
Maize prices remain depressed, with the white maize contract ending December fetching 2,411 rand ($168) a tonne, about 55 percent lower than its all-time high of 5,376 rand scaled in January, 2016 during a historic drought.
($1 = 14.3433 rand)
(Editing by James Macharia)
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