Grain SA economist, Wandile Sihlolo, says although it is not clear how much rain these regions will receive, any rainfall will be positive for grain farmers. “At this stage any amount of rainfall would help replenish soil moisture,” he says.
He says that Grain SA’s main concern is whether South Africa will experience the El Niño effect, and the risk grain farmers would be exposed to as a result. “We have to remember that farmers put millions of Rands into the soil each year,” he says.
According to the South African Weather Service the southern parts of Africa usually receive below-normal rainfall when an El Niño is present.
Although most El Niño years have been associated with below-normal rainfall, the impact of this weather phenomenon is often reduced by the sufficient groundwater and soil moisture content carried over from previous seasons.
However, Sihlolo says this is a major concern for grain farmers right now. “Farmers already have so little soil moisture that can be carried over from the previous season as a result of drought conditions in certain regions,” he explains.
Mike Halper, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Centre, a division of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was quoted in Livescience.com saying that the El Niño forecast for 2015 could be one of the strongest on record.