JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa on Tuesday cut its maize output forecast for the 2011/12 season by 3 percent, exactly in line with market expectations, after late-season drought weighed on yields.
Africa's biggest maize producer would harvest 11.3 million tonnes for the season, compared with 11.7 million tonnes in the previous forecast, the government's Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) said.
"This is because of a late-season dry spell in February and March," CEC spokeswoman, Marda Scheepers, said.
Traders had said the estimate would be cut to 11.3 million tonnes, also citing drought concerns.
South Africa's maize season runs from May to April.
The crop will now consist of an estimated 6.5 million tonnes of white maize and 4.8 million tonnes of yellow, the CEC said in its second production forecast for the season.
However, the area cultivated under maize slightly rose to 2.7 million hectares from 2.68 million hectares in the previous forecast, the committee said.
South Africans consume between 8 and 9 million tonnes of the staple each year, with the rest destined for export. But the country is now importing the grain to make up for deficits due to large export commitments.
Drought-striken Mexico has been a major buyer of South African maize this season at over 1 million tonnes.
South Africa harvested 10.36 million tonnes of maize in the previous season.
Maize prices are off the record highs scaled earlier this year but remain high.
The most active July white maize contract ended 0.09 percent at 2,305 rand a tonne on Tuesday, while yellow maize for delivery in the same month edged 0.05 percent higher at 2,203 rand a tonne.