Late rains boost farming prospects in 2020
JOHANNESBURG - Late rains have boosted farming prospects in 2020 as soil moisture in most parts of South Africa has improved compared with a year ago.
This is reflected in many dams such as Hartebeespoort dam overflowing, while in other areas such as Graaff-Reinet, dams have started filling up after being bone dry.
“Over the past few weeks, South Africa received widespread rainfall which improved soil moisture and could be viewed as conducive for agricultural development. This improvement in soil moisture has prompted analysts in the market and various organizations to lift their estimates of South Africa’s summer crop production, specifically maize. One such organization is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that currently forecasts South Africa’s 2019/20 maize production at 14.0 million tonnes, which is up 19% from the previous season. This is supported by expectations of higher yields and an improvement in area plantings,” Wandile Sihlobo, the chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber said.
The rain in the drought-hit Eastern Cape has been especially welcome with Graaff-Reinet receiving 58 millimetres (mm) of rain in the first ten days of February 2020 compared with zero in the first ten days of November 2019, while Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) got 98 mm from zero in the same two periods, according to the South African Weather Service.
The improvement in farming prospects is not confined to summer grains, as the USDA
expects South Africa’s fresh citrus exports to rise by 10% in 2020 to 2.24 million tonnes. The revenue growth from citrus exports should be even higher as growers shift production to high value soft citrus such as mandarins from oranges. In 2018, the average export price for soft citrus was R13,498 per tonne, while for oranges it was R8,600 per tonne according to the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA).