Rain ‘too little, too late’

2014-10-22 00:00

RECENT rains may have created a belief that the drought in the province is over, but it is “too little, too late.”

Last week Premier Senzo Mchunu declared a state of disaster after authorities warned of dwindling water in dams and that crops were in danger and livestock were dying through lack of feed and water.

The provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for instance, said eight of 14 sugar mills will be forced to shut down earlier this year due to a shortage of sugar cane.

David Wayne, executive director of CANEGROWERS said yesterday that recent rains were “too little, too late.” CANEGROWERS represents South Africa’ 23 866 cane growers.

“While the recent widespread rains have been well received over most parts of cane growing regions in KZN and Mpumalanga, these will have little impact on the current season’s crop with most mills in KZN scheduled to close in six week’s time,” he said in a statement.

Wayne said consistent follow-up rain was required to determine what difference this will have on contributing towards next season’s crops and yields. All cane growing regions have been affected with areas such as Empangeni reporting a 40% year-on-year crop reduction.

Whilst cane growers were continuing with planting and fertiliser operations for the next season’s crop, soil temperatures are low hindering growing conditions. Additionly, there were large areas where cane roots had died due to dry conditions and, accompanied by two years of reduced yields, had resulted in costly and significant replant programmes that would normally only occur over a eight- to 10-year cycle.

“Considering the fact that many growers are in a stretched financial position as a result of the ongoing cost squeeze with increasing input costs and a protracted period of low returns to sugarcane production, the impact of the dry conditions on the capacity of growers to implement proper ratoon management is of particular concern.”

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