Agriculture in 2013: Drought devastates large summer rainfall regions

The previous summer’s drought in the eastern parts of Limpopo was said to be one of the worst since 1983.

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According to Tshianeo Mathidi, Limpopo president of the National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (Nerpo), more than 2 000 cattle had already died by January this year. By 1 March, grain marketing company Mirador Agri’s director, Albe Mouton, said that the impact of the drought in the central grainproducing areas was being reflected in the sharp increase in maize prices.

It was reported on 5 April, that the dry conditions in the Northern Cape, North West and Namibia were forcing
red meat producers to sell animals on a large scale. It put downward pressure on weaner prices, and at the time, farmers could expect between R14,50/kg and R15/kg. Meanwhile, by the beginning of May, there were concerns that due to the dry conditions during the pollination and silking phase of maize earlier this year in North West and the Free State, the potential size of the maize crop was expected to drop to an estimated 11,5 million tons.

Drought conditions by 21 June continued to worsen and Farmer’s Weekly reported that the agricultural sector in North
West had already suffered about R2 billion in droughtrelated damages. Surveys across the province showed that at least 50% of the maize crop had failed. At the end of July, North West was declared a disaster area. According to reports, about R350 million was made available by government for livestock producers in the province. More than 4 000 developing farmers and 1 100 commercial farmers had applied for disaster aid.

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By 4 October, it was reported that more than 18 000 applications had been received. However, by 1 November
livestock producers in North West were still waiting for drought relief aid, especially in communal areas. North West RPO chairperson, Flip le Roux, said: “Animals are dying in droves in the Logageng communal area close to the Gemsbokvlakte in the Vryburg district, where I farm.” By 8 November the western parts of the summer grain production area were still critically dry and large areas had not received any significant rains, according to Santam Agriculture’s weather expert, Johan van der Berg.

On 22 November, Boeta du Toit, general manager of Agri North West, said that although the province had been declared a drought disaster area, farmers had received only R4,6 million in aid. He said the National Disaster Management Fund would provide a further R43 million, but there was so much politics around the issue that they were not sure when this money would become available. The initial application was for R400 million and R43 million was not much when divided among 23 000 farmers, he added.