Weak La Niña a fil­lip for SA

Farm­ers, economists pre­dict pos­i­tive spin-offs on news of a wet­ter year ahead

CityPress - - Business -

such as fer­tiliser, and seed pro­duc­ers, as well as agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tives and food com­pa­nies, had all been hit hard by this sea­son’s drought. “Food com­pa­nies such as Pi­o­neer Foods and Tiger Brands have been un­der pres­sure be­cause of the drought and its re­sul­tant higher in­put costs, and be­cause they had to im­port more food­stuff,” Sihlobo said. Richard Ni­chol­son, eco­nomic re­search man­ager at the SA Cane Grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, con­firmed that the La Niña event was ex­pected to bring high rain­fall. “Af­ter a pro­longed drought, rain­fall will be wel­come ... The right amount of sum­mer rain­fall will have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the crops, bear­ing in mind that floods can be detri­men­tal too,” he said. Ton­gaat Hulett CEO Peter Staude said that, with the weak­en­ing El Niño and the strength­en­ing La Niña, the com­pany was hop­ing for a wet sum­mer. It grows sugar cane in South Africa, Zim­babwe and Mozam­bique. South Africa pro­duced 1.63 mil­lion tons of sugar in the year to March 2016 – the low­est since 1994/95, and down 22% on the pre­vi­ous year’s 2.1 mil­lion tons be­cause of the drought.

For the year to March 2017, lo­cal sugar pro­duc­tion is set to de­cline by a fur­ther 6% to 1.54 mil­lion tons – which would be the low­est crop since the 1992/93 sea­son.

In its lat­est sea­sonal cli­mate watch, the SA Weather Ser­vice said that El Niño was slow­ing down, fast.

“There is a pos­si­bil­ity for the de­vel­op­ment of a weak La Niña to­wards late spring through to the com­ing sum­mer sea­son. De­spite the fact that cur­rent cli­mate con­di­tions and most of the fore­cast mod­els are in­di­cat­ing the ten­dency of a warmer and drier win­ter sea­son, the con­fi­dence in the fore­cast­ing sys­tems is mar­ginal,” it added.

“There are chances for above-nor­mal rain­fall con­di­tions over the western and north­east­ern parts of the coun­try for the win­ter sea­son,” said the SA Weather Ser­vice.

“Min­i­mum and max­i­mum tem­per­a­ture fore­casts show a ten­dency of warmer-than-usual tem­per­a­tures over the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly over the north­east­ern part dur­ing the mid­win­ter sea­son,” it said.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy in Aus­tralia – known for its ex­per­tise in track­ing El Niño and La Niña events – is fore­cast­ing a 50% like­li­hood of a La Niña event form­ing later this year.

PHOTO: TE­BOGO LET­SIE

EMA­CI­ATED Bhekinkosi Mbatha won­ders how he will be able to feed his starv­ing cat­tle. Drought has af­flicted those liv­ing in the Um­folozi area, near Non­goma in KwaZu­luNatal, for months on end

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