Storm season’ hits farmers hard

Intense rainfall and hailstorms struck Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal on the weekend of 19 to 21 October, causing fatalities, infrastructure damage and in some cases, crop losses.

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The Standerton area in Mpumalanga reportedly experienced three consecutive hailstorms on one afternoon. According to TWK co-op branch manager Etienne Meyer, the hailstones seemed to grow larger with each storm. Standerton maize and soya bean farmer André Tonkin said that 2 000ha to 3 000ha of recently planted soya bean would need to be replanted in the area due to the golfball-sized hailstones. It was thought that the young maize plants would, however, recover from the damage.

“Farmers who were insured and lost crops that had already emerged will be able to claim,” said Tonkin. “But insurance won’t pay for crops that have not emerged.  The trouble, though, is that the rain and hail have compacted the soil surface and this will interfere with the germination of crops that have already been planted but have not yet emerged.”

Parts of the Eastern Cape received very heavy rainfall over the weekend (see report alongside). While parts of KwaZulu-Natal also received heavy rain during this period, the KZN Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) said that it had not received any reports of damage yet.

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“But people are so despondent with government’s lack of timely response to weather disasters that perhaps they aren’t bothering to report damage anymore,” said Kwanalu CEO Sandy la Marque. “For the last three years, parts of the province experienced major drought, and we’ve been to meetings with, and submitted reports to, government but there has been no meaningful response from them.” La Marque said that while farmers in these areas welcomed the rain, it would take time for them to recover from their losses due to the drought.