South African commercial farmers intend to increase the area planted with maize by 26.5% to 2.46-million hectares‚ in the 2017 production season‚ due to favourable weather forecasts.

The improved weather outlook will enable farmers to replenish maize stocks‚ which dropped significantly during the 2016 drought‚ resulting in higher food prices.

The area planted to white maize is expected to rise 43.4% to 1.45-million hectares while that of the yellow variety will likely rise 8% to 1-million hectares.

The increase in the area planted would likely put further downward pressure on grain prices‚ which have already dropped significantly from the record peaks they hit earlier this year.

The South African Weather Service said earlier this week the country could expect wetter conditions during the early and mid-summer periods.

The expected warmer conditions from the previous forecast had also subsided somewhat‚ which may be further evidence of wetter conditions in these periods‚ forecaster Cobus Olivier said.

In the case of sunflowers‚ the expected area planted is estimated at 670‚000 hectares‚ which is 6.8% less than the 718‚500 hectares planted last season.

The intended planting of soybeans has increased 2.6% to 516‚000 hectares

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