As South Africa gets closer to the predicted weakening of the El Nino pattern, and a transition into La Niña, there is a high probability of above normal rainfall early in summer, which would lead to a good 2016/17 crop season. Fruit and vegetable prices could also ease towards the end of the year as conditions improve.
Should weather forecasts remain on course, the country can expect agricultural production to bounce back by mid-2017 resulting in significant moderation in food prices.
Due to the impact of the drought, coupled with a weak Rand led to an excessive increase in food price inflation directly impacting lower income households across the country. Although the impact of La Nina will not be felt immediately it will bring long term relief to struggling consumers that are currently finding it difficult to make ends-meet. Favourable changes in weather patterns could result in better production during the 2016/17 season.
A good rainfall season will lead to lower (grain) prices and the country would also be in a good position to recoup its losses and grow its export revenue for next year. Moreover, small-scale farmers who are also finding it difficult to produce enough food to feed their families would also breathe a sigh of relief.
Dam levels in the Western Cape have shown a slight recovery in recent weeks. The medium to longer term rainfall outlook for the province is relatively good with light showers expected which will be beneficial for the winter crop. It will also replenish dam levels and possibly help ease water restrictions for the region.
However, the situation for the rest of the country is expected to remain unchanged until we get La Nina induced rainfall in spring or early summer. Despite the benefits of La Nina, it will take commercial farmers about two years to fully recoup financial losses incurred due to the drought.
As the uncertainty around weather patterns continues to increase due to climate change, it is important for farmers to explore new farming technology and strategies to ensure sustainability of agriculture and food security.
By Paul Makube (FNB) – www.fruitsa.co.za