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"South African drought "critical" in the north"

According to South African news sources, the Mpumalanga and Limpopo regions will be declared agricultural disaster areas very soon, due to the drought.

The South African Weather Service said last week that an El Nino weather system, which was already forecast to bring drought conditions for much of the summer, now looks like it will extend into autumn next year.

Justin Chadwick, CEO Citrus Growers Association said that although the whole country has suffered from lack of rainfall, there is now ample rain falling in the Eastern Cape and the dams are full. In the Western Cape there has been less rain than normal and there is concern for the season ahead as dams are low. These regions grow 25 and 15% of the country's citrus respectively.

"The problem is indeed in the northern region of the country where it is very dry and there has not been much spring rain, resulting in dams being critically low. There are restrictions on water with some growers only allowed 50% of their normal quota. Limpopo and Mpumalanga are two of the regions severely affected, these regions grow 30 and 15% of the country's citrus respectively."

Water is critical for the citrus crop at the moment as it is in the fruit set stage and needs adequate water.

Chadwick added that there is still hope as most of the rain usually falls between November and January, the problem is that the traditional September (spring) rain has not fallen for a few years now.

Derek Donkin, CEO Subtrop said, "This is the dry period and we are waiting for rain as it has been unseasonably hot this year. The dams are low, and although the situation is critical it varies from farm to farm. As yet there are no negative affects on avocados, but we must get some rainfall in the next couple of months."

Retailers in South Africa are working with suppliers to prevent food shortages and to make sure they have enough fresh produce on their shelves according to

The majority of grocers source more than 95% of their produce domestically.

Vito Polera, national buyer at Fruit & Veg City, told that while produce was still coming in as planned, sudden food shortages might be experienced from next month. Similarly, Shoprite Holdings said the extreme heat in the northern production areas was of great concern and might start having an effect from next month.

In 2012, consumers faced a spike in food prices as a severe drought resulted in rising grain-based food prices, lower livestock production and escalating fruit and vegetable costs, as well as a reliance on imports for certain produce categories.

Pick n Pay spokeswoman Tamra Veley says the group works closely with its suppliers to maintain a sustainable supply chain.

About 94% of the group’s food products are procured from domestic suppliers.

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