Weather-related challenges are expected to negatively impact the prospects for South Africa’s wheat harvest, with some dryland producers in the Free State expressing concern that they will not harvest even 1t/ha.
This emerged during discussions at an agricultural markets outlook workshop, presented by agricultural economist Prof Johan Willemse, in Bloemfontein on Friday.
Willemse said wheat prospects across the country had been negatively affected by various adverse weather conditions.
“The wheat harvest looks like it is going to be a lot smaller than initially forecast, and could even be lower than the latest estimate.”
He said late-season rain in the Western Cape was also expected to take a toll on the harvest.
“Heavy rain experienced in the Western Cape this past weekend has resulted in a fair amount of damage in terms of quality,” he said.
Willemse said there was also concern about frost damage in inland irrigation regions such as the eastern Free State and KwaZulu-Natal; however, the extent of this still had to be determined.
“[The conclusion is] that the harvest will be smaller and it will be a year [in which] we import more wheat than what we produce.”
Jan Groenewald, a dryland wheat farmer based in Clocolan in the Eastern Free State, said he planted 1 000ha this season, but did not believe he would harvest enough to break even.
He decided to plant a much larger area again this year, due to extremely good moisture levels following good rainfall at the end of summer, he said.
“In April we received four times the long-term average in rainfall,” he said.
Groenewald said the problem was that no rain had been received since then, and none in the critical period for wheat in September/October.
He said a good average harvest for his area would be around 2,5t/ha, but that he was hoping to be able to harvest 1t/ha this season. “There has been a lot of damage for farmers in my region, including [in the] Clocolan, Ficksburg, Marquard, Excelsior, Ladybrand [districts] and even towards Fouriesburg,” he said.
Dirk van Rensburg, a farmer from Arlington, told Farmer’s Weekly that he was expecting to harvest about 0,5t/ha to 1t/ha this season.
“If the rain does not come in the next two weeks, then there may be no harvest,” he said.
Klasie Jacobs, an irrigation producer near Douglas in the Northern Cape, said he was worried about possible damage to his crop after receiving frost in the last week of October.
“I will still have to wait and see how much damage it caused,” he said.