According to Cobus Olivier, prediction scientist at the South Africa Weather Service, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon was expected to remain in a neutral phase during South Africa’s summer period.
This meant that neither La Niña nor El Niño events were predicted, and that ENSO was unlikely to directly influence Southern Africa’s summer rainfall areas.
Observations showed that ENSO was gradually cooling towards the neutral phase, and forecasts suggested that it would remain in a neutral phase in the coming months.
“The likelihood for an El Niño event has decreased further from previous assessments, and as we are near the start of spring, the current forecasts tend to be more reliable,” he explained.
The fortunes of South African farmers are improving slightly after two years of hardship caused by one of the worst dry spells on record.
But the food producers are not out of the woods yet, with forecasts of El Niño drought conditions returning.
Agribiz economist Wandile Sihlobo said that although it has been a good year for production, with record farming growth, the Western Cape remained a big source of concern.
First National Bank senior agricultural economist Paul Makube said: “Things are generally starting to pick up. We’re expecting a modest improvement from agriculture that should pick up gross domestic product slightly.”
Western Cape was still in the grip of a dry spell, even though other regions had good rains.
Grain farmers would be harvesting in a month or two and vegetable farmers, with their shorter cycle should be in better shape, Makube said.
Banks were accommodating farmers with their debt, he said. “Arrangements have been made by banks and the situation has not been too bad.”
The South African Weather Service has warned that El Niño conditions could return at the end of 2017.