It's going to be a hot, dry summer- South Africa

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The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has advised farmers that this summer is going to be hotter and drier than usual.

In a climate advisory for the 2018/19 summer season, spokesman Steve Galane also warned that many provinces were reporting poor conditions of veld and livestock at the start of the season. And some parts of Southern Africa may experience Crisis conditions.

Galane said that according to the South African Weather Service, above-normal rainfall is expected over most parts of the summer rainfall areas during early summer, however, below-normal is expected during mid-summer and for the far north-eastern parts of the country during late-summer. Also, overall higher temperatures are expected moving towards the mid-and late-summer period. 

The Weather Service said that in general a drier and warmer summer season as a whole is expected. While significant rainfalls are still expected, these would be very inconsistent. Dry spells are expected to occur at a higher frequency and for longer duration this summer. 

Galane said the food security outlook issued in October 2018 by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network indicates that the lean season has started atypically early across large areas of Southern Africa due to the poor 2018 harvest from prolonged dry spells during the second half of the 2017/18 rainy season. He said parts of Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Lesotho, were already experiencing Crisis outcomes. Many households in conflict-affected parts of DRC are also in Crisis. 

He said due to limited staple supplies in some markets and earlier than normal demand for staple food purchases, prices would continue to increase. Maize grain prices in parts of Malawi and northern parts of Mozambique are 11 percent and 32 percent above the five-year average, respectively. DRC, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho have also reported increases in maize grain prices. He said staple food prices would likely continue to increase through the lean season when most households are expected to exhaust their harvest.

The department advised dryland farmers to wait for sufficient moisture before planting and consider drought short season cultivars. They are also advised to consider other alternative crops such as sorghum. Farmers using irrigation system should be mindful of the forecast in planning the size of area to be planted due to expected below normal rainfall and high temperatures. Farmers must also comply with water restrictions in their areas. 

Galane said livestock should be kept in line with carrying capacity of the veld, and be provided with additional feed. They should also be provided with enough water points on the farm as well as shelter during bad weather conditions. 

He also said the risk remained high for veld fires. “The veld is dry in areas with sufficient biomass, and veld fires have been reported in several provinces. Farmers are encouraged to maintain firebreaks and adhere to veld fire warnings.