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In the next three weeks follow-up rain is critical in South Africa

Rainfall over South Africa remained erratic in December; some parts are continuing to experience below-average rainfall while others received more than 200% of the monthly average. This worries grape and citrus growers and farmers in general.

Johan van den Berg, manager of specialised crop insurance at Santam Agriculture, said that rainfall in December and the first part of January was poorer than originally predicted, particularly over the central to western parts of the country.

He said that rainfall in the western Free State and North West had been sporadic. This meant that many farmers had been unable to plant maize in areas such as Bultfontein, Hertzogville and Petrusville, as well as Bloemhof and Schweizer-Reneke.

In the eastern summer planting area, including Mpumalanga, most farmers had been able to plant but some were now in desperate need of follow-up rain to replenish soil moisture levels. “Rain over the next three weeks is critical.”

Van den Berg added that, by contrast, coastal regions in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route, as well as the KZN interior, have had a fair amount of rain. He ascribed the dry spell to cyclone activity over the Indian Ocean to the north of Madagascar that had drawn away moisture.

However, learned that due to the La Niña weather phenomenon, there was a reasonable possibility of rain in the second half of January.

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