South African-based Illovo Sugar has said it expects its sugar production to be slightly lower in 2003/04 than in the previous year, partly because of dry weather conditions in South Africa.

Chairman Robbie Williams said the company's overall sugar output was forecast at 2.2 million tonnes, a decline of 100,000 tonnes compared to the previous season. Williams added that Illovo's cane production is estimated to be around 5.6 million tonnes this year, 200,000 tonnes lower than last season.

"The current sugar estimate in South Africa is almost 1.15 million tonnes, which is 12.5% below last year's final production figure," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Crops in Malawi and Zambia are also expected to be slightly lower than the previous season, while recent rain in Swaziland would help boost the company's harvest there to a level above the previous harvest, Williams said.

Despite adverse weather in Mozambique, the harvest is expected to rise by just under a third to 67,000 tonnes, while Illovo's Tanzania harvest is also expected to rise. The company's US beet operations are expected to produce 170,000 tonnes, an increase of 15%.