PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — South Africa’s corn (maize) production will likely miss earlier estimates as dry weather delayed plantings and may impact yields, the Agricultural Business Chamber said Jan. 14.

Total planted area for the 2018-19 season is likely to fall 19%, to 1.98 million hectares. This would be similar to the area planted during the 2015-16 drought period, the chamber said.

Because of persistent dryness, less than 20% of the intended corn in Free State and North West provinces had been planted by Dec. 25, 2018, the ABC said.

The chamber initially estimated production at 12.2 million tonnes based on intentions to plant 2.44 million hectares.

“It is now clear that such harvest will not materialize as we expect a decline in area, as well as the fact that the late planted maize might not yield well because of the lateness of the season, and possible frost later during the course of the season,” the chamber said in the report.

During the previous drought, the country produced 7.8 million tonnes of corn. It became a net importer to satisfy consumption of 10.8 million tonnes, the chamber said. However, that year corn stocks were relatively low since it was the second successive drier season.

This year is different, the chamber said, since carryover stocks are estimated at 3.4 million tonnes.

“This will provide a much-needed buffer for the country’s supplies,” the chamber said. “Most importantly, this suggests that if South Africa’s 2018-19 maize production could amount to at least 8 million tonnes, the country would have sufficient supplies for the whole 2019-20 marketing year.”