JOHANNESBURG, June 28 (Reuters) - South Africa will harvest 15.6 million tonnes of maize this season, the biggest crop on record but still missing a consensus forecast, the government's Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) said on Wednesday.
The crop would beat the previous record set in 1981, although analysts and traders had forecast it to hit an even higher 15.82 million tonnes.
The harvest will comprise 9.466 million tonnes of white maize, the regional staple used for human consumption, and 6.614 million tonnes of yellow, the bulk of which is used in animal feed, the CEC's fifth production forecast of the season said.
The 2017 harvest is expected to be almost double the previous season, which was only 7.78 million tonnes following an El Nino drought that impacted yields and pushed up food prices.
Low maize prices helped to ease inflation and food prices but have placed pressure on farmers' profits and stalled exports.
The Johannesburg stock exchange's white maize futures contract due in September has fallen 68 percent from its peak of 5,376 rand a tonne hit in January last year to close at 1,740 rand on Wednesday. (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Joe Brock)