Predictions of South Africa's la Niña season are borne out by the strong rains of the past week. For the early avocado growers of Levubu it could mean a delay to the highly-anticipated start of the avocado season; for Tzaneen's avocado growers whose harvest is about a month away, it is great timing.
A wet season is always to be welcomed, but it does bring higher pathogen pressure and risks like softening of fruit, and the fruit is ripening quicker but "the rain pays for the damage", notes a mango farmer, who has a keen eye on the level of the Letaba River's Tzaneen Dam: 33.5% earlier this week (6.8% this time last year). With over 400mm recently in the catchment areas, further strong inflows are expected.
The Klein Letaba river in Limpopo is flowing again (photo: Johann Rothmann, ReënvalSA)
Alas, there is no point in the Tzaneen Dam filling up past 60%: a few years ago the dam wall was broken down to that level in preparation for extension of the dam wall, but construction has come to a complete standstill.
The Tommy Atkins mango season ended earlier, usually mango producers can harvest Tommy Atkins into February, but many mango producers ended mid-January this year.
Tomato volumes have been affected by the rain, coming down rapidly from very high volumes on the market. Overcast conditions delay ripening and rains disrupt harvesting.
Rain in the north of the country can improve the prospects of tomatoes now being harvested in the Cape.
Melons from the north of the country are experiencing fungal problems in the continuing moist conditions. "It's difficult to get the sugar levels right and to keep it crisp," explains a melon farmer in northern Limpopo. "The melons become soft inside and the taste becomes bland."
Onions and peppers in the north of the country are in their growing stages. The rain assists farmers in saving on the irrigation schedule.