SOUTH AFRICA’S worst agricultural year since the infamous 1991 season, one of the worst in history, confirms how dependent the agricultural industry is on the weather. The prospects for this season, and unfortunately also for the long term, don’t look good.
First National Bank agricultural economist Ernst Janovsky says the current high maize price – already more than R1 800/ton, as against R500/tons two years ago – is the sum total of high international prices (which will probably remain high) and the drought. He says the bad weather may even push the price up to more than R2 000/ton.
The drought is even affecting drought-resistant crops like sunflower. Afgri Commercial and Logistics CEO Wouter Mentz says very low roll-over stockpiles of 60% less than the average can also push prices up considerably.
The effect of global warming as a result of the greenhouse phenomenon is increasing. Scientists predict that temperatures could increase by 10% within decades, but they’re still not sure whether the rainfall will decrease accordingly.
Luke Sandham of the School for Environmental Sciences at North-West University says droughts could be more intense and flooding could increase, with serious consequences for agriculture. And, like this year, droughts could start occurring once every six years on average, and no longer once every eight years.