Welcome rains for local farmers

Picture: SUPPLIED

The recent rains in the Chris Hani area after the prolonged drought has been gladly welcomed by local farmers.

However, Queenstown and District Agricultural Association chairperson and Enoch Mgijimafarmers ’ Union vice-chairperson Simon Sutton, said follow-up rains were needed for sufficient grass growth and to improve the underground water table.

“Very welcome rain has fallen in most parts of the region, with some areas receiving more than others.

“If we could order it, 25 to 30mm per week would be near-perfect conditions for optimum grass growth,” Sutton said.

“Our normal average yearly rainfall, pre-drought, was around 600mm.

“However, since 2014, we have had below-average rains, with 2017 and 2018 being some of the lowest recorded in more than 100 years.

“I have measured just over 170mm since the rain started in 2020.

“The only way for the drought to end is if we receive above-average rainfall for two or more consecutive years.”

He said many commercial farmers had reduced their stock to avoid animals dying from starvation.

“Calving and lambing percentages are lower than normal,” he said.

“Dry land crops are not planted, or were planted late, which affects growth and yield.”

Finances were very tight on all fronts and banks were not willing to extend their facilities for farmers, Sutton said.

Concerning prices, he said “certain crop products have increased slightly, but most meat prices have remained similar to last year”.

“These are the prices that the farmer gets, not what the consumer is paying!” Sutton added that many emerging farmers were affected negatively by the drought.

“The rainfall has helped the grass to recover, but many communal areas are overstocked, which affects the grasslands negatively.

“They take longer to recover, especially after an extended drought.”

He said the local Nguni breed of cattle adapted well to the harsh conditions.

A meeting with local farmers was held last Wednesday, where issues on security, Eskom, fires, drought aid and membership fees were discussed.

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