South Africa will likely harvest 7.16 million tonnes of maize in 2016, unchanged from a previous estimate as weather conditions remained stable, a government agency said on Tuesday.

The forecast by the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), its sixth of this season, was 28 percent lower than the 9.95 million tonnes reaped last year because of drought and late plantings.

The CEC's estimate was slightly higher than a Reuters' poll of traders and market analysts that pegged the harvest at 7.11 million tonnes thanks to recent improvements in rains in the drought-hit grain belt.

"In terms of the information we had on the table, it didn't validate any change on the estimate, it supported the estimate as it stands," said CEC analyst Marda Scheepers.

White maize, the staple source of calories in Africa's most industrialised country, doubled in price last year helping to fuel inflation after South Africa in 2015 experienced its lowest rainfall levels since records began in 1904.

The July white maize contract closed 0.25 percent lower on Tuesday at 4,676 rand a tonne, compared to its historic peak of almost 5,400 rand a tonne scaled in January, according to Thomson Reuters' data.

The CEC said that the warmer weather and rainfall during April and May had helped to maintain the crop yield.

"Usually there would be some frost that would have a negative impact on the crops but at this stage, from May to June, it's as if the weather conditions are on par," said CEC senior statistician Rona Beukes.

A powerful El Nino system and other weather patterns combined to trigger a historic drought in southern Africa with an estimated 31.6 million people across the region struggling to feed themselves, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies.