Weak La Niña a fillip for SA
Farmers, economists predict positive spin-offs on news of a wetter year ahead
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.
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