Rainfall now is crucial to save planting season

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Thunderstorm.

Food security is at risk – as later than expected summer rains have failed to replenish the moisture needed for South African farmers to plant at decent rates this season, according to Agri-SA.

Lobby groups Agri-SA and Agribiz have expressed concern over the skyrocketing temperatures and dry weather which occurred during planting season for the grain belt and many crucial commercial crop farming areas, especially in the western parts of the country.

Experts then expressed the hope that the last two weeks of December would see the rainfall picking up amid dire planting conditions in Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape.

While planting activity did pick up over the holidays, Agri-SA president Dan Kriek said the December rains have failed to completely save this planting season.

However, the next few weeks would be crucial, he said.

According to agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo, as of last week less than 20% of intended maize hectares had been planted in Free State and North West, respectively. These particular provinces accounted for more than half of SA’s white maize output. But the coming rains could indicate a turnaround.

Jan Vermeulen, forecaster for the South African Weather Service, told The Citizen the next few days would see heavier than usual rainfall in various parts of the country.

Heavier rainfall, leading to flash-flooding in parts of Limpopo, and severe thunderstorms over the western parts of North-West are expected starting today.

Isolated to scattered thundershowers were expected over the northern, central, and eastern parts of the country.

“We have had widespread thundershowers in northern and eastern Limpopo and the Lowveld of Mpumalanga,” Kriek said. “We also have a 30% chance of light rains over the Eastern Cape from PE and northwards. That is the outlook for tomorrow.

“For Thursday and Friday, we expect thundershowers over the North West and eastern Limpopo. We have isolated to scattered thundershowers over Free State and the eastern parts of the Eastern Cape and KZN, Mpumalanga, Gauteng as well as the western parts of Limpopo.”

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni / The Citizen