A year of extraordinary weather

It has been a year of unusual weather in many parts of South Africa. The SA Weather Service in June predicted unusual temperatures and rainfall across SA for the winter.

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he department of agriculture warned of below-normal rainfall in the southern and extreme western parts of the country, and abovenormal rainfall in the central and north-eastern parts during mid-winter.

Maximum temperatures were expected to be below normal with the minimum above normal. Most parts of the Western Cape experienced mild and even warm weather during May and July. “Last year we had a very cold winter and, as a result, the stone and pome fruit harvest was above average this year, and thus far we’re expecting equally good harvests next year,” said Gys du Toit, managing director of the Du Toit Group’s production division.

This year they experienced some warmer days in July, which caused early budding and blooming. Daan Brink, agronomist for the Two-a-Day Group, said chilling units were measured at two weather stations in the Grabouw area, where fewe units were measured this year than at the same time last year. KwaZulu-Natal’s farmers were happy that late March rains resulted in higher than normal water tables.

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In Mpumalanga, farmers were grateful that the warmer and wetter-than-usual winter had resulted in fewer runaway veld fires than were normally experienced. Unusual weather patterns left the Eastern Cape dry and warm, resulting in poor veld grazing conditions. Dr Pieter Prinsloo, chairperson of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO), noted that the normal rainfall for the province was 560mm/ year, but only 350mm had fallen in the past 12 months.

On 16 August, Farmer’s Weekly reported that avocado farmers in the eastern regions were pleased that the fruit had not experienced frost damage. However, certain citrus-growing areas had not had the cold snaps needed for optimal orange skin colouring for their fruit. Meanwhile, heavy late frost caused severe damage to vines.

The frost cut a devastating 250km swathe through the Groblershoop-Blouputs region on the weekend of 21 September. Dirk Krapohl, manager of the Orange River Agricultural Union, said records showed it was the region’s coldest weather in 126 years. It was expected that up to 15 000 seasonal workers in the Orange River region would be out of work due to crop damage.