File image: Reuters

Johannesburg - South Africa, the continent’s biggest producer of corn, may reap 6 percent more of the grain this season as output of the white variety surges, according to the Crop Estimates Committee.

Local producers may harvest 12.4 million metric tons, Marda Scheepers, a spokeswoman for the government’s Crop Estimates Committee, said by phone today.

The forecast is bigger than the 12.1 million-ton median estimate of five analysts in a Bloomberg survey and is more than the 11.7 million tons grown in the 2013 season.

White-corn output may climb 18 percent to 6.55 million tons, while production of the yellow variety will decrease 5 percent to 5.85 million tons.

South Africa produced 12.8 million tons in 2010, the biggest crop since 1982.

Cornmeal made from the white variety is used to make a staple food known as pap, while the yellow type is mainly fed to animals.

Local prices of both varieties have risen to a record this year as drought in some growing regions curbed output.

Grain SA, which represents commercial farmers, said in January that stocks would be tight for the rest of the season, until the harvest begins in April.

Tiger Brands Ltd., the biggest South African food company, said last month it would consider importing corn in the event of a supply shortage.

White corn comprises only about 13 percent of global output, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. This makes it difficult to import.

Southern African nations’ preference for this type of the grain means the region is less likely to take advantage of a slump in global prices spurred by record harvests of corn, mainly yellow, from the US to Brazil.

The committee raised its forecast for wheat production to 1.8 million tons and increased the estimate for malting barley 0.9 percent to 266,002 tons. - Bloomberg News