Rains save the day for farmers

2010-11-16 00:00

RECENT rains have saved the day for dairy, banana and macadamia nut farmers on the South Coast — and even helped sugar farmers with crops that have been planted for next year.

A dairy farmer in Uvongo, Oscar Bruggemann, says the rains could not have been timed more perfectly.

“The gentle rain has been just perfect. Next year’s cane crop is smiling,” says Bruggemann.

“All trees, including the macadamias — and any crops without deep roots — are smiling. The cattle, which now have pastures to graze on, are smiling. Everything has greened up — we are seeing the miracle of spring the way it should be.”

Bruggemann says he recorded 81 mm in October and 55 mm in November so far. “This is excellent and every bit is useful. Too much rain is a problem, so we are blessed with what we have had.”

Bruggemann says trees with deep roots have not yet benefited from the rain.

Desmond Naidoo, who speaks for 581 small cane growers in the Umzimkhulu area, says it is too early to assess the damage that the drought had on their farms, but the rain was better late than never.

“This season is over, but the cane that has not been destroyed at the roots by the drought is shooting again. This will help next season,” Naidoo says.

The chairperson of Umzimkhulu Canegrowers, Paul van Tichelen, said: “It is perfect cane-growing weather — sunny and wet. It has been predicted that this will be a wet and sunny summer, which is absolutely perfect … because 60% of our cane growing happens in January, February and March.

“Our losses from this year’s drought can obviously not be recouped and crops will be smaller next year, but we are thankful for the rain.”

Banana farmers on the coast will also benefit from the rain, but only in about four months.

The chairperson of the Southern Natal Banana Association, Quentin Elliot, said the rain is very welcome, especially for farmers who have been hard hit by the drought. Farmers who do not have access to irrigation lost 50% of their crops while those with irrigation have lost 30%.

“The rain in October will have helped future crops and November rains have had some run-off into the dams, which will help with irrigation,” Elliot said.

“How bananas work is that a new bundle emerges and takes four months to ripen, which means that small bunches have already come out before the rains.”

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