Mpumalanga farmers feel the heat as harsh weather persists

2015-10-12 16:09

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Mbombela - Farmers in Mpumalanga are worried about the possible loss in yield should the heat wave persist.

This comes after the SA Weather Service recently warned of the possibility of a water shortage due to extreme weather conditions.

"Farmers are really in trouble. Last year we had a crisis in maize production and this year it is even worse because of this heat wave and water shortages," said the provincial chairperson of African Farmers' Association of South Africa, Job Mthombeni, on Monday.

Mthombeni said maize production decreased drastically due to harsh weather, especially in the Highveld areas.

He said those with water rights and dams were still fine for now, but that rivers might also run dry.

He said farmers should have started planting in October, but found that it was too risky.

"Banks also have doubts in funding us because they might not get their money back when farmers fail to produce. Food security is in trouble," said Mthombeni, who farms with fruit and livestock.

Mthombeni urged the government to come up with plans to assist farmers.

"We tried to ask for intervention through water rights, but still nothing has come forth. You cannot farm without water. This crisis is also affecting livestock farmers. The grass is still recovering, while most emerging farmers are struggling to afford fodder," he said.

SA Weather Service general manager of operations, Mnikeli Ndabambi, said this was South Africa's worst water shortage in 23 years.

"Most of the country is moderate, but you get the severe drought-affected areas and we still expect more drought with time. The recent months, the extreme western parts of the Eastern Cape have experienced severe drought and also some parts of [KwaZulu-Natal]. Gauteng , Limpopo and Mpumalanga are also affected, including the Northern Cape," he said.

Commercial farmers were also not immune.

Agri-SA spokesperson Kosie Van Zyl said the heat wave was bad news for farmers.

"Most of the farmers believe that if the moisture is not there they cannot grow anything, so the heat wave is bad news as far as farmers are concerned,” he said.

Nkomazi Cotton Farmers chairperson Robert Nkalanga said they were forced to wait until November because they farmed on dry land and depended on the rainfall to prepare the soil.

"Usually we start in the first week of October to prepare our soil... for planting, but now we can’t. The tractor can't plough any deeper under these conditions,” said Nkalanga.

Attempts to contact Mpumalanga's provincial department of agriculture, rural development and environmental affairs for comment were unsuccessful.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  farming  |  weather  |  drought

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