Rains cheer farmers

2012-10-27 00:00

RAINFALL along the South Coast in October has been the heaviest in the last decade — and grateful farmers are going bananas.

But if the heavy rains are prolonged, there are fears some crops might fare worse.

“There is no doubt that there has been more rain this October — and spring so far,” said South African Weather Services spokesperson for KZN, Sanjeev Sewnarain.

“Heavier rainfall was recorded and also on more days. On the whole there is no doubt that this is the heaviest rainfall on the South Coast for October in at least a decade.”

Sewnarain said readings in Margate showed September received 393,4 mm of rain and October another 256,6 mm.

Oscar Bruggemann, a farmer who lives in Izotsha and has been religiously measuring rainfall for the past 50 years, agreed with Sewnarain.

“So far this year we have had double what we had last year from January to November and five times what we had in 2010. No doubt about it, we have had more rain and much heavier rains in September.

“But not only is it much wetter, it is also much colder. Spring has been delayed so many of the trees which should be budding and ‘sending it’ are not and don’t have a green leaf on them yet.”

Good news, however, is that while South Coast farmers have been mildly inconvenienced, they share the sentiment that more rain is better than none.

David Wayne, executive chairperson of SA Canegrowers, who represents South Coast sugar cane farmers, said: “No farmer will turn away rain, but it would be better if it were more evenly spread. This rain has been good for next year’s growing season and will greatly assist our 2013 crop — and we never want the drought again that we had last year.”

Wayne said they now needed steady rain through to April, rather than big downpours.

“The amount of rain we are having now is making it difficult to harvest the cane and could, if it continues like this, affect the quality. So it needs to let up, but at the same time not dry up until April.”

Blaine Peckham, chairperson of the Southern Natal Banana Growers’ Association — a R75 million trade on the South Coast — echoed this sentiment.

“Farmers always say rather too much rain than too little and drought. No doubt this is one of the wettest years ever, but we are grateful for the rain.

“Our problem is that a lot of our farmers are dealing with damage to infrastructure because of all the rain. Our roads, which are gravel, are washed away and in a bad state, some little bridges and drains are washed away and some farmers are battling more than others, so it is making harvesting the bananas difficult.”

Absenteeism had also increased, said Peckham, hampering their fertilising and weed control. “But it could be worse.”

Figures supplied by Sewnarain show 110,2 mm fell in Margate in October 2000, less than half last month’s rain.

In Paddock in 2000, 104,6 mm of rain fell as opposed to 227,4 mm of rain this October. In Port Edward in 2000, 120 mm of rain fell whereas 224,2 mm of rain fell this October. In October 2005 in Pennington South (which is when the last reading was taken), 74,6 mm of rain fell, compared to 195,6 mm last month.

And at a Weather Services measuring station at the old airport in October 2000, 60,2 mm of rain fell compared to 203 mm this year.

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