South Africa Sees Above-Normal Rains in Wheat Areas

The South African Weather Service forecast above-normal rain in areas that produce most of the nation’s wheat and grapes over the next five months.

There is “a tendency of above-normal rainfall conditions for the southwestern parts of South Africa,” the Pretoria-based service said in its Seasonal Climate Watch report, received by e-mail. “The forecasting system indicated mostly strong probabilities for below-normal rainfall in late winter for most of the country.”

There is a 33 percent chance that rains will be higher than average in the eastern part of the Western Cape from July to September, with the same probability in the western part of the province over October and November, the service said. The average is calculated from 1983 to 2009, Cobus Olivier, a scientist at the organization, said by phone.

About half of South Africa’s wheat is grown in the Western Cape province, situated in the southwest of the nation. The region also produces most of the country’s grapes. Rain falls in the winter months of April to August in the area, while there are summer showers in corn-growing regions.

South Africa is the sub-Saharan region’s biggest producer of wheat after Ethiopia, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Yield Lift

Above-average rainfall “would lift yields” for wheat, Brink van Wyk, a trader with Pretoria-based BVG (Pty) Ltd., said by phone. “It will help production in the Western Cape.”

South Africa produced 1.87 million metric tons of wheat in 2013, matching the previous year’s harvest, the Crop Estimates Committee said.

Winters must be long enough to ensure a period of dormancy for vines, and there should be no late frost because it will be a threat to the young buds, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The country’s harvest of grapes for wine production may fall 4.7 percent to 1.42 million tons this year from a record harvest in 2013, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service said on March 12. South Africa was the eighth-largest wine producer in 2012, with 4 percent of global output, according to the nation’s Wine Industry Information and Systems.

(Corrects to show that percentage reflects probability that rainfall will be higher than average in third paragraph of story first published on June 20.)
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