File image: Reuters

Johannesburg - South African white-corn futures climbed a third day, extending the highest price since trading started in 1996 as concerns persist over tight stockpiles.

White corn for delivery in March gained 0.6 percent to 3,292 rand ($291) a metric ton by the close in Johannesburg, after earlier today touching 3,300 rand.

Both the closing price and the intraday peak were the highest for a most active contract since at least August 1996, when trading began.

The grain rose 7.3 percent this week, the biggest weekly advance since May, and 17 percent this month, the largest monthly increase since July 2012.

Yellow corn for delivery in July declined 1.6 percent to 2,260 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.

White-corn inventories slid to 1.84 million tons, while declining to 1.33 million tons of the yellow variety.

“These prices will stay at these high levels until the new crop comes in,” Thys Grobbelaar, an analyst at Klerksdorp, South Africa-based Senwes Ltd., said by phone.

“We are looking at least until the end of March going into April.”

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 is about 900,000 tons.

“The market is quite nervous about whether there will be maize available when that time comes and that is why they are willing to pay these prices,” Grobbelaar said.

South Africa is the continent’s largest producer of corn, also called maize.

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 0.8 percent to 3,826 rand a ton. Soybeans for delivery in May gained 0.1 percent to 6,025 rand a ton. - Bloomberg News