South African maize farmers intend to cultivate more land in the 2011/12 season as they are lured by strong prices, while wheat output for 2011 is seen down from a previous forecast, an official survey showed on Tuesday.

The government's Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) said farmers intended to plant 2.602 million hectares of the staple grain in the 2011/12 season compared with 2.37 million hectares in the previous season.

The area would comprise 1.564 million hectares of white maize and 1.038 million hectares of yellow maize, the CEC said in its first area survey for the season.

CEC spokeswoman Marda Scheepers said the expected rise in plantings was due to favourable maize prices.

However, late or excessive rains can still influence farmers to plant other summer grains crops, she said.

The CEC is expected to release the final maize production figures for the 2010/11 season in December.

In its last forecast for the 2010/11 season output last month, the CEC said it expects South Africa to harvest 10.608 million tonnes of maize.

Maize prices in Africa's biggest producer of the grain have rallied in the past year due to strong export demand and global market trends.

The benchmark December white maize futures contract has gained nearly 80 percent so far this year, while yellow maize for delivery in the same month is up 60 percent.

The committee lowered its forecast for the 2011 wheat crop to 1.842 million tonnes from a previous forecast of 1.903 million tonnes.

Scheepers said the cut was due to unfavourable weather conditions in some provinces.

The area for the wheat crop was left unchanged at 604,700 hectares.