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South African maize farmers intend to plant 9.47% more of the staple grain in the 2019/2020 season, after the previous season's plantings were delayed and profitability of the crop improved, the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) said on Thursday.

Farmers are expected to plant 2.519 million hectares of maize next season compared to 2.301 million hectares planted for the 2018/2019 season. The forecast was slightly higher than a Reuters poll anticipating 2.36 million hectares of maize to be sowed.

Planting of white maize used mainly for human consumption is seen at 1.432 million hectares, while yellow maize used mainly in animal feed is seen at 1.087 million hectares. The CEC, which also gave its ninth estimate for the 2018/2019 season, estimated maize production at 11.186 million tonnes compared with a September estimate of 11.081 million tonnes. Tonnages were seen increasing in the Free State, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

The latest estimate for the 2018/2019 season is 11.4% less than the 12.510 million tonnes harvested in the 2017/2018 season, after dry weather conditions delayed plantings and impacted yields. The harvest is projected to consist of 5.538 million tonnes of white maize and 5.648 million tonnes of yellow maize, said the CEC.

Copyright Reuters, 2019