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Drought presents farmers with opportunity for ‘change in crop producing’

The South Africa Weather Service has forecast that the drought will continue until autumn 2016.

FILE: The Department of Agriculture says it’s seriously concerned about the expected spike in food prices due to low production and increased imports. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Agriculture says it believes the current drought being experienced in parts of South Africa has presented farmers with an opportunity to change the way they produce their crops.

The department says it's seriously concerned about the expected spike in food prices due to low production and increased imports.

The South Africa Weather Service has forecast that the drought will continue until autumn 2016.

Agriculture minister Senzeni Zokwana said, "We need to change the method of farming and I think we need to work closely with institutions like the weather service so that we are able to look at the long-term progression and decide how best we can ensure that we produce."

KZN DECLARED DISASTER AREA

Yesterday, government declared KwaZulu-Natal a disaster area in the midst of the worst drought to hit the country in almost two decades.

Other areas include Limpopo and the North West.

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti, joined by his counterparts Lindiwe Zulu and Senzeni Zokwana, were briefing the media.

They were giving an update on the National Development Plan and Vision 2030 in Parliament today.

Apart from the high unemployment rate, Nkwinti said the decline in farming output is a concern.

"Within the next week, we're not expecting any significant rainfall. If anything, we are expecting some slight showers towards the end of the weekend, into early next week but nothing significant. And nothing in the quantities that we would like to see at this time of year."

NO SIGNIFICANT RAINFALL

At the same time, forecasters said significant rainfall is only expected in autumn next year.

They say global warming and the El Niño effect are likely to blame for the lack of rainfall.

Environmental scientist Simon Gear said the last few months have been the warmest on record.

"Global warming has clearly taken hold and so the last three or four month have been among the warmest on record. Combined with that we have the strongest El Niño signal that we've had since the 1940s."

Principle researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research professor Francois Engelbrecht said usually El Niño events are associated with below normal rainfall.

"That means the December to February period particularly is associated with below normal rain or even drought during El Niño year."

South African Weather Service Cobus Cronje said the lack of significant rainfall is expected to last until next year.

"We can say that we are experiencing below normal rainfall and this season is expected to last into autumn next year. This is what the long range is indicating."

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