THE Crop Estimates Liaison Committee says the estimated total production figures have improved compared with its September estimates after it discovered that estimated yields were too low in certain provinces at the time.

After also discovering that the impact of the mid-summer drought was overestimated, it said on Thursday afternoon that the figures from the maize utilisation survey to determine on-farm usage and retention of stock — conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries — and the telephonic survey conducted by the National Crop Statistics Consortium were added to the South African Grain Information Service delivery figures to calculate the final crop production figures for the year.

The committee announced the revised crop production figures compared with the September estimates, saying the commercial maize crop was now 11.8-million tons, which was 335,350 tons (2.9%) more. It had earlier estimated a figure of 11.5-million tons.

For white maize, the recalculated crop size was 6.7-million tons, which was 3.6% higher than September, and for yellow maize the recalculated crop size was 5.1-million tons, which was 2% higher than September.

The committee attributed the underestimation of the maize crop to the mid-season dry spells in February and March this year and that fact that dry land maize did not look good on the fields during earlier inspections, but had since realised better yields than expected.

It also said that more irrigation maize was planted compared with the previous season, reaching 240,500ha from 187,450ha the previous season.

Meanwhile, irrigation yields were also higher than last year, and contributed 20%-25% of the total crop, the body said.

In the case of commercial sunflower seed, the final calculated crop figure was slightly adjusted downward by 1% from 527,110 tons to 522,000 tons. Groundnuts and sorghum were also adjusted downward by 2.1% and 1.2%, respectively.

With regard to commercial soya beans, the recalculated crop showed an increase of 0.5%, from 646,950 tons to 650,000 tons.

The committee accepted the final recalculated crop production figures for this year, emphasising the point that "the scientific methods for determining yields should play a more important role" in future. For example, the impact of changing weather conditions and improved cultivars should be addressed by the methodology.

The committee thanked all producers and industry role-players who provided information on a regular basis to improve the accuracy of the crop estimates. It appealed on some producers, who did not participate in the department’s monthly survey, to make an urgent effort to contribute to the crop estimation process.

The committee oversees the process for the finalisation of the crop production figures of commercial white and yellow maize, sunflower seed, soya beans, groundnuts and sorghum for this year.