Johannesburg - South Africa is likely to harvest a bigger maize crop this year as farmers plant more hectares, but drought in some parts of the country poses a risk to yields, a survey showed on Friday.

The South African government said last month farmers have planted 2.78 million hectares for the 2013 season compared to 2.7 million hectares the previous year.

The Crops Estimates Committee will release the revised area planted for the 2013 season on Tuesday, as well as the first production forecasts for the year.

An average forecast of five trading houses polled by Reuters showed traders expect the 2013 crop to come in at 12.34 million tonnes, up from 11.83 million tonnes last year.

“The crop has just started forming. They need rain for it to form properly and there is no rain in some areas. The crop is taking strain at the moment,” a trader said.

Forecasts ranged between 11.6 million tonnes and 12.8 million tonnes.

Higher maize prices last year encouraged farmers to plant more maize.

But domestic maize futures are now off the record highs of around 2,800 rand ($320) a tonne hit in 2012 on prospects of a good crop this year.

The most active July white maize contract was trading 0.86 percent lower at 2,087 rand a tonne as of 09:54 SA time. - Reuters