South Africa's 2019 maize crop seen down 16 percent on drought conditions: Reuters poll

A maize garden is seen below houses at a village near Mthatha, Eastern Cape province, South Africa, March 16, 2018. Picture taken March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa is likely to harvest 16 percent less maize in 2019 compared with the previous season after drought delayed plantings, a Reuters poll showed on Monday.

The government’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), which will provide its second production forecast for the 2019 crop on Tuesday, is seen pegging the harvest at 10.482 million tonnes, down from the 12.510 million tonnes in the 2017/2018 season, the poll six traders and market analysts showed.

The 2019 harvest is expected to consist of 5.317 million tonnes of the food staple white maize and 5.165 million tonnes of yellow maize, which is used mainly in animal feed.

The crop is slightly higher than the country’s annual consumption of around 10 million tonnes but the production outlook could still be dampened by warmer weather.

“The medium term weather outlook still calls for better growing conditions across most production areas. However, frost damage may dampen the production outlook specifically for the late plantings in parts of the Free State and the North,” said FNB senior agricultural economist Paul Makube.

White maize prices are just below highs reached in January of 3,350 rand on fears that yields would be hit by delayed plantings, with the contract ending July closing at 3,052 rand on Friday.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; editing by Darren Schuettler