October 23, 2017 / 2:15 PM / in a month

South Africa seen planting 17 percent less maize hectares next season

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African farmers are expected to sow 17 percent less hectares of maize in the 2017/2018 season after this year’s bumper harvest depressed prices prompting farmers to plant more profitable crops next season, a Reuters’ poll showed on Monday.

Electricity pylons of South Africa power utility Eskom are seen above a maize field in Mpumalanga province , north of Johannesburg, in this picture taken March 1,2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) is expected to say farmers plan to sow 2.176 million hectares of maize, down from the 2.629 million hectares planted last year, according to an average estimate of six traders and analysts surveyed by Reuters.

The range was 1.90 million to 2.37 million hectares.

Farmers are expected to plant 29 percent less white maize at 1.160 million hectares next season, compared with 1.643 million hectares in the previous period.

Yellow maize plantings are forecast to be 1.017 million hectares compared with 985,500 hectares in the 2016/17 season.

The bumper 2016/2017 crop has kept maize prices depressed with the white maize futures contract due in December closing at 1,948 rand, down 64 percent from its peak of 5,376 rand a tonne hit in January last year.

“There are talks in the market that some farmers could reduce the area planted with white maize and switch to other crops such as oilseeds and yellow maize due to price competitiveness,” said an economist at the agricultural business chamber, Wandile Sihlobo.

The 2016/2017 harvest estimated by the CEC in its final production forecast at a record breaking 16.744 million tonnes was up 115 percent from the 7.78 million tonnes harvested in 2015/2016, following an El Nino-triggered drought which impacted yields, pushed up food prices and fuelled inflation. [nL8N1M948W]

The CEC will give its first forecast on intentions to plant on Thursday for the 2017/18 maize growing season.

Editing by James Macharia

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