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article imageSouth African drought follows last year's third driest season

By Karen Graham     Nov 10, 2015 in Environment
The South African Weather Service reported on Tuesday that the country's diverse farming sector has already been hit hard by a drought that follows on the heels of the 2014-2015 season, making it the driest since 1991-1992.
The rolling heat waves and low rainfall mark the start of the summer season in South Africa, and the forecast is a dire one, with the drought expected to continue through the first few months of 2016, according to Reuters.
The economic losses brought on by the drought cannot be taken lightly in Africa's second largest economy. In the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, the sugar crop, a primary agricultural product, is threatened, as well as cattle and other crops. Last year, the province suffered severe losses from the drought, the driest since at least 1900.
Wet weather is critical for irrigating crops in South Africa  but in 2015  there s been little or no...
Wet weather is critical for irrigating crops in South Africa, but in 2015, there's been little or no rains. Water levels in irrigation dams are around 50% and below.
CCTV Africa
Due to the aridity of the land in South Africa, only a meager 13.5 percent can be used for crop production, and of that amount, only 3.0 percent is considered high potential agricultural land. South African government officials have urged farmers to cull their cattle herds as grazing lands dry up.
Additionally, VinPro, a cooperative of over 3,500 growers and wineries, issued a warning to members last week that the groundwater levels have dropped due to the significantly lower amounts of rainfall experienced earlier this year. The water levels in irrigation dams is currently at only 40 to 50 percent capacity.
The manager of the VinPro Consultation Service, Francois Viljoen, told The Drink Business, “The heatwave that occurred in the last week of October, is also an anomaly at this time of the year and placed further pressure on water resources and available ground water, as the vineyards’ water usage has increased drastically."
As for the country's water storage outlook, of the seven provinces in South Africa, only the Eastern Cape has seen an increase in reservoir levels, and by only 2.0 percent this year. The rest of the country has seen water levels dropping since October 2014 by over 18 percent.
While September this year brought heavy rains in the north, the expected rains in October were short-lived, as drier-than-normal conditions prevailed and the northern part of the country was bogged down in a heatwave. The forecast for January and February is even bleaker, and this is in part due to the strong El Nino weather pattern. South Africa is expected to experience below normal rainfall and the drought is expected to worsen.
More about south africa drought, El Nino, Water shortages, Vineyards, Rising prices
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