File image: Reuters

Johannesburg - White-corn futures traded in South Africa, which is set to run short of supplies this year, reached the highest price since trading started almost 18 years ago.

White corn for delivery in March climbed as high as 3,155 rand ($284) a metric ton on the South African Futures Exchange in Johannesburg before closing little changed at 3,120 rand a ton.

The day’s high was the highest price for a most-active contract since trading began in August 1996.

Yellow corn for delivery in July declined 0.8 percent to 2,270 rand a ton.

National stockpiles of the grain fell 25 percent by December 31 from a year earlier, the Pretoria-based South African Grain Information Service said January 24.

Inventories slid to 1.84 million tons for white corn and dropped to 1.33 million tons for the yellow variety.

“The available stock is very tight,” Andrew Fletcher, an independent trader in Kroonstad in the Free State province, said by phone. “It is a concern.”

The country has about 3.1 million tons of stockpiled corn remaining until April, when the harvest begins, according to Grain SA, which represents commercial farmers.

Monthly demand comes to about 900,000 tons, indicating a shortfall of about 500,000 tons by April.

South Africa is the continent’s largest producer of corn.

Meal made from the white variety is used for a staple food known locally as pap and yellow corn is mostly fed to animals.

Wheat for delivery in March declined 0.4 percent to 3,820 rand a ton.

Soybeans for delivery in May fell 1.1 percent to 5,880 rand a ton. - Bloomberg News