JOHANNESBURG -  The medium-term seasonal outlook produced by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) remains benign for KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) farmers with decent rains expected, while past rains have filled up some dams so that the average this year is higher than the average last year.

In May, rainfall received at the national level was near normal to below normal in many areas with above normal rainfall over some of the western parts, north-eastern and eastern parts of the country. The onset of winter in June meant that rainfall dropped, but in July above normal rainfall was received mainly over the central parts of the country. For the season July 2017 to June 2018, mainly near normal rainfall was received but below normal over the western half of the country, according to SAWS. 

In KZN below normal rainfall was received over most parts in June, with heavy frost being an almost daily occurrence over the interior since the beginning of July. In June this year, Richards Bay airport weather station received 67 millimetres (mm) of rain, while the University of Zululand weather station got 64 mm. In June last year, these two weather stations received 47 mm and 24 mm respectively. Along the lower-lying coastal areas, summer pastures are still showing some greenness, but growth is slow. 

Over the midlands and interior, summer pastures have frosted and have turned brown, with no regrowth. Winter season pastures are the only sign of greenness in the midlands/interior. Livestock condition is reasonable to poor. The veld is dry and brown with little to no grazing value. Some incidents of veld fires have been reported in some areas. Dam levels have improved to an average level of 64% in July 2018 compared with 55% in July 2017. 

The 18.8% year-on-year increase in tractor sales to 569 units in June showed that KZN farmers remain upbeat about prospects given the recent good rains and are not too concerned about the land tenure question. On a year-to-date basis, tractor sales for the first six months are 11.9% higher than the same period last year, so the June jump was not a flash in a pan. This far higher than the flat sales the South African Agricultural Machinery Association expected at the beginning of the year and are good grounds for optimism about KZN farming prospects.