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Drought to boost 2016 wheat plantings as corn drops

Farmers trying to curb losses.

South African farmers may plant more wheat this year as producers work to curb their losses after a drought-stricken summer during which some were unable to sow corn.

Farmers in South Africa, the continent’s largest corn producer and the sub-Saharan region’s second-biggest wheat grower after Ethiopia, usually plant either wheat during the winter months or corn in summer. While corn farmers planned to sow more than 2.5 million hectares (6.2 million acres) of the grain at the start of the season in October, the driest year in more than a century prompted them to limit plantings to 2 million hectares, according to agriculture body Grain SA.

South Africa’s 2015 wheat crop was probably 1.46 million tons, the smallest since 2010.

“Some of them eventually got rain when it already became too late to plant maize,” Andries Theron, vice chairman of Grain SA, said in an interview, referring to corn. “The potential is huge.” Weather conditions in the eastern parts of the province are favourable for corn and wheat plantings, he said in Bothaville in the Free State province during the organisation’s annual producers’ conference.

Corn Imports

South Africa, usually a net exporter of corn, may need to import as much as 4.5 million tons of the grain this year to meet domestic needs, according to Agri SA. The country has been a net importer of wheat since 1997, Theron said.

The nation’s Crop Estimates Committee sees the 2016 corn harvest at 7.26 million tons, the smallest since 2007. This is an optimistic forecast, Jannie de Villiers, the chief executive officer of Grain SA, told reporters.

While producers increased plantings to 2 million hectares from 1.3 million hectares in the second half of January due to good rains, dry weather since then is decimating the crop, De Villiers said. “It is going very tough with the late plantings because they didn’t receive rain ,he said. “It is suffering at the moment, some of it is dying.”

© 2016 Bloomberg


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