File image: Reuters

Johannesburg - South Africa’s stocks of corn fell to the lowest in at least 16 years at the end of the 2014 season after a drought in the continent’s biggest producer of the grain and exports cut into reserves.

Stockpiles declined 59 percent to 594,245 metric tons by April 30, the end of the annual marketing season, from a year earlier, Pretoria-based South African Grain Information Service said in a statement on its website.

That is the smallest amount since at least 1998, the first year for which data is available on the service’s website.

Local prices of both white and yellow corn rose to records earlier this year as a drought in some growing regions raised concern that yields would drop.

Exports of the grain rose 13 percent to 2.04 million tons in the 2014 season from a year earlier, with Japan and Zimbabwe the largest buyers.

Meal made from the white type is used as a staple South African food called pap, while the yellow grain is used as animal feed.

“We experienced a severe drought in the western parts of the country,” Thys Grobbelaar, an analyst at Klerksdorp-based Senwes Ltd., said by phone.

“That and the fact that we had an enormous amount of our corn being exported made the stocks lower.”

Stocks included 274,791 tons of white corn and 319,454 tons of yellow, the grain service said.

White corn dropped 0.1 percent to 1,891.20 rand a ton by the midday close on the South African Futures Exchange, while the yellow type gained 0.1 percent to 1,995 rand a ton. - Bloomberg News