Johannesburg - South Africa raised its forecast for wheat output by 2.5 percent as deliveries of the grain in the Western Cape province increased, according to the Crop Estimates Committee.

The nation probably produced 1.8 million metric tons for the 2013 season, Marda Scheepers, a senior statistician at the Pretoria-based committee, said by phone today.

The median estimate of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for the prediction to be unchanged from the committee’s December 20 forecast of 1.75 million tons.

The country’s farmers produced 1.87 million tons in the previous season.

South Africa, a net importer of wheat, is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest producer of the grain after Ethiopia and the region’s biggest buyer after Nigeria and Sudan, according to US Department of Agriculture data.

Wheat for delivery in March on South African Futures Exchange fell 0.4 percent to 3,820 rand ($345) a ton by the close today.

The committee left its forecast for output of malting barley unchanged at 263,602 tons and maintained its estimate for canola production at 112,041 tons.

The area South African farmers plant with corn will probably decline 2.5 percent this year to 2.71 million hectares (6.7 million acres) after growers substituted the crop with oilseeds such as sunflowers, Scheepers said.

The estimate for white-corn plantings fell 2.8 percent to 1.57 million hectares from a year earlier, while that for yellow corn was cut 2.2 percent to 1.14 million hectares.

Cornmeal made from the white variety is used for a staple food known as pap in South Africa, while the yellow type is mostly fed to animals.

The sunflower area will probably surge 23 percent to 618,400 hectares, while that for sorghum will increase 19 percent to 74,700 hectares.

Soy plantings may drop 0.1 percent to 516,000 hectares while the drybean area may climb 29 percent to 56,170 hectares.

The groundnut area will probably rise 6.6 percent to 50,000 hectares. - Bloomberg News