05 January 2005

Good summer rains bring relief to farmers

The good summer rains have been good news for farmers who feared a tough, dry season.

SA Weather Service figures show that, with the exception of the Northern and Western Cape, the country experienced good early summer rains during November.

Pretoria recorded an accumulated figure of almost 300mm.

Major dams are also in good health, with the department of water affairs and forestry reporting a 58,4 percent average carrying capacity as of December 20, slightly down on the 60 percent of the year before.

artebeespoort Dam is currently 86 percent full, with Roodeplaat and Bronkhorstspruit dams at 96 percent and 34 percent respectively.

Bronkhorstspruit's low level is due to poor rains in the Mpumalanga catchment area. The Vaal Dam, at 28,6 percent full, was also struggling due to poor catchment rains, the department said.

Fed by the Orange River, the Free State's Gariep Dam is 56 percent full and KwaZulu-Natal's Pongola-poort stands at almost 63 percent.

The abundant rain was good news for farmers, who late last year faced an uncertain planting season, said Nico Hawkins of Grain SA. "Farmers have had enough rain to sustain their crops at present."

Hawkins warned, however, that existing ground moisture would be depleted.

"The severity of the summer drought in January and February will determine the ultimate success of the harvest," he cautioned, saying hectares under maize would fall short of the estimated 3-million.

"In terms of white maize, this is not a concern. There are good reserves in silo storage. We won't produce sufficient yellow maize though," said Hawkins.

Manie Booysen of the South African Meat Industry Company said meat prices were not expected to rise. "Our beef slaughter herds are sufficient to meet local demand and with the maize price down, feedlots can provide enough quality animals."


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