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WC farmers face trouble if no rain falls soon

Agri Wes-Cape’s CEO says this has been the driest summer the province has seen in many years.

FILE: An open field. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape farmers could be in trouble should no rain fall in the next two weeks.

Agri Wes-Cape's CEO Carl Opperman said this has been the driest summer the province has seen in many years.

He said rains that should have already fallen are desperately needed, especially by grain farmers.

"It's a dry circle that we've got at the moment. We will be managing it, so we're expecting rain in the future. It's most probably going to be what we call 'a dry winter'".

Meanwhile, vegetable farmer Gideon Van Zyl said fellow farmers in the lower Olifantsriver Valley are running dangerously low on irrigation water.

"For the vegetable guys and the seed production guys, next week they will get their last agricultural water and if no rain is falling in the next two weeks, they won't get irrigation water anymore."

ERRATIC RAINS

Rainfall patterns in southern Africa are becoming erratic as climate change takes its toll, threatening production of staple and cash crops in the region.

Farmers, who for centuries have known when to expect rains, are now finding planning difficult as the region experiences a mixture of early, late and above normal rains.

Climate experts have said as weather patterns change, the outlook for rain-fed agriculture was particularly bleak in southern Africa's Limpopo river basin, which covers parts of Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

South Africa last month declared a drought in its North West Province, an important maize growing region in Africa's biggest producer of the crop.

But the short-term outlook is hopeful.

According to FEWS NET, a USAID-funded famine network, southern Africa is expected to get normal to above normal rain from October to March next year, which should bring relief to some if not most of the drought-striken areas.

Zimbabwe, which faces its worst food shortages in four years after a drought, was gearing up for the new growing season but lack of farm inputs may hamper production.

"We are going to struggle in terms of crop production and the economy will continue to be in dire straits," Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers Union president Charles Tuffs told Reuters.