South Africa's record 2017 maize crop seen double last year's: Reuters poll

FILE PHOTO: 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

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s record 2017 maize harvest is expected to more than double last year’s after improved weather conditions boosted yields, a Reuters poll of five traders and analysts showed on Tuesday.

The government’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), which will provide its final production estimate for the 2017 crop on Thursday, is expected to peg the harvest at 16.498 million tonnes, up 112 percent from the 7.78 million tonnes reaped last year when crops were scorched by an El Nino-triggered drought.

The CEC pegged the 2017 harvest at 16.413 million tonnes in its last forecast in August.

The 2017 crop, which will surpass the highest crop on record of 14.656 million tonnes reached in 1981, is expected to consist of 9.677 million tonnes of the staple white maize and 6.818 million tonnes of the yellow variety, used mostly for animal feed.

“It is clear this was one of the best years for maize, thanks to good summer rainfall, an increase in the area planted, as well as higher yields,” said Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at the agricultural business chamber.

Maize prices are depressed due to bumper crops in the region including in neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, which has previously imported maize from South Africa.

The white maize futures contract due in December is down 65 percent from a peak of 5,376 rand ($403) a ton hit in January last year, closing on Tuesday at 1,902 rand.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Susan Fenton