The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries shares the following in their 2017 Winter Climate Advisory. The focus is on improvement of conditions in summer rainfall areas, dry weather in winter rainfall areas, difficulty to forecast rainfall, increased risk for veld fires and more:

Conditions in most summer rainfall areas improved greatly following good rains received during the 2016/2017 summer season. Generally, the veld and livestock are in reasonable to good condition and above average yields of summer crops are anticipated. On the other hand, very dry conditions have been reported in the winter rainfall areas, and a drought disaster status has been declared in the Western Cape with water restrictions in place.

According to the Seasonal Climate Watch issued by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) dated 25 May, the forecasting system is very uncertain on a specific direction of rainfall throughout the country. Furthermore, SAWS states that this is particularly common during winter as the forecasting systems are unable to predict the important rainfall bearing system this time of the year.  It has been indicated that temperatures across the country are expected to be higher than normal with the exception of the south-western parts, especially during mid-winter.

The May 2017 update issued by the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS-NET) indicates that the trade of maize and other crops is slowly increasing, including market activities related to cash crops and food. As supply of cereals on the market is increasing, competition among farmers and traders in several countries is also increasing. Given the harvest prospects of average to above average production, staple prices are expected to continue to decline across the region. As the main 2016/2017 cropping season comes to an end, preparations for a second season or winter production is already underway in countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Malawi. With the exception of drought-affected Tanzania, there is adequate soil moisture to support good crop conditions and immediate land preparation for winter crops without pre-irrigation.

Dryland winter crop farmers are advised to wait for sufficient moisture before planting and stay within the normal planting window. They are also advised to be conservative in their planting, i.e. planting density/cultivar/area being planted. In addition, they should consider drought tolerant cultivars where possible. Irrigation farmers should reduce the planting area in line with water restrictions in their areas. Farmers should follow the weather and climate forecast regularly so as to make informed decisions.

Livestock numbers must continually be kept in line with carrying capacity of the veld, and be provided with additional feed such as relevant licks. They should also be provided with enough water points on the farm as well as shelter during bad weather. As the veld has dried out in summer rainfall areas, the risk of veld fires increases. Therefore, creation of fire belts should be prioritized as well as adherence to veld fire warnings. Cold spells and localised flooding resulting from frontal systems will occur during winter and measures should be in place to minimise or adapt to the negative impacts of these hazards. – Press release

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