Drought taking its toll on summer maize plantings

The El Niño weather pattern has had a markedly negative impact on the prospects of grain producers in South Africa’s 2015/2016 grain production season so far, according to Dr Dirk Strydom, head of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS).

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Soil moisture levels are extremely low and the poor and late rains in the eastern production areas meant late plantings in those regions, including Mpumalanga. “The late plantings in the east will definitely put pressure on local maize supplies,” said Strydom.

The optimum planting period for maize planting in the eastern summer grain production area is from mid-October to mid-November. But only 50% of the maize lands in Mpumalanga were planted. Virtually no dryland maize has been planted in KwaZulu-Natal. In the eastern Free State only 5% of maize lands have been planted.

According to a statement released by the department of agriculture, the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu-Natal provinces were the worst affected by drought. The department is monitoring conditions here and has undertaken to issue updated early warning information pertaining to the drought.

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Livestock producers were drastically cutting animal numbers in order to mitigate the effects of the drought. This was expected to impact negatively on beef and lamb producer prices, said Prof Johan Willemse, agricultural economist at the UFS.