South Africa Dry-Weather Spell Seen Continuing Throughout Summer

  • Models show El Nino conditions expected to last until autumn
  • Conditions may promote localized drought: weather service

South Africa, enduring its worst drought in 23 years, may face persistent dry and hot conditions through most parts of of the country this summer as an El Nino episode strengthens and may continue throughout autumn, the nation’s weather service said.

Dry conditions “may promote a regional or localized drought, depending on the state of the existing water stress,” the South African Weather Service said in a report on its website. The summer runs from November to February.

South Africa is the continent’s biggest corn producer and the El Nino global weather pattern causes dry conditions in the sub-Saharan region. The nation’s worst drought since 1992 this year hurt crops in the Free State and North West provinces, which accounted for almost two-thirds of corn output last year. Some parts of the Western Cape province, the region responsible for more than 50 percent of local wheat output in 2014, hasn’t received enough rain as the harvest started and has reported below-average yields, according to Grain SA, the biggest representative of South African farmers of the cereal.

The Crop Estimates Committee predicts this season’s corn harvest will be 9.84 million metric tons, the smallest since 2007, and that the nation will probably sow 2.55 million hectares (6.3 million acres) with the grain, the smallest area since 2011.

South Africa’s biggest water utility and municipalities of its largest city and capital last week asked users to consume sparingly as insufficient rains and persistent high temperatures curb supply. High demand in the cities of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni to the east and Pretoria “will cause localized problems,” Rand Water Services Pty Ltd. said in an e-mailed statement Friday.

South African farmers’ ability to produce food at levels needed to maintain national food security have been threatened by the high probability of a second straight year of drought, said Johannes Moller, the president of Agri SA, the biggest representative of growers in the country. Its members are exposed to financial losses because of the dry weather, which will make it difficult for them to meet their obligations to financial institutions, he said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

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