File image: Reuters

Johannesburg - South Africa, the continent’s largest corn producer, raised its forecast for output of the grain this season 4.5 percent, and the harvest may be the largest since 1981, the Crop Estimates Committee said.

Local farmers may grow 12.95 million metric tons of corn, Marda Scheepers, a statistician at the Pretoria-based committee, said by phone.

That compares with last month’s 12.4 million-ton forecast by the body and would be 11 percent more than the 11.7 million tons produced last year.

The median prediction by five analysts was for a crop of 12.6 million tons.

South Africa produced 14.4 million tons of corn in 1981, Scheepers said.

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

“The estimate was raised because of favorable production following good rains that are resulting in better yields,” Scheepers said.

The country experienced heavy rains in February and earlier this month.

Jannie de Villiers, the chief executive officer of Grain SA, the biggest representative of commercial farmers, said floods may delay corn harvesting in the eastern Mpumalanga province.

The committee raised its estimate for output of white corn by 7 percent to 7.01 million tons and that for the yellow type by 1.6 percent to 5.95 million tons.

White corn for delivery in July fell 1.5 percent to 2,098 rand ($196) a ton by the close in Johannesburg trading.

The yellow variety for delivery in the same month declined 1.4 percent to 2,180 rand a ton.

The sunflower-crop production was raised 6 percent to 825,325 tons, while that for soy was increased 4 percent to 867,700 tons.

The committee said groundnut output may be 4 percent higher than the previous estimate at 85,265 tons, while drybean production may be 3 percent higher at 79,205 tons.

The sorghum-production estimate was cut 4.7 percent to 228,450 tons. - Bloomberg News