South Africa's recovery from its worst drought in over century could be stalled as anticipated rain relief from a La Nina weather system remains uncertain, the South African Weather Service said on Monday.
An earlier prediction of a moderate La Nina, which is associated with higher rainfall, for the spring/summer season between September and February, had eased farmers' drought fears. But the South African Weather Service said it was uncertain how much rain there would be.
An El Nino weather pattern which ended in May triggered drought conditions across southern Africa. South African temperatures reached historic peaks and 2015 was the driest year since records began in 1904.
South Africa's maize crop was decimated with current forecasts pointing to a 26.6 percent lower harvest this year due to the severe drought. White maize, the food staple, doubled in price last year, helping to fuel inflation.
Indian Ocean conditions may not be conducive for rainfall during spring with most climate models indicating a marginal prospect of above normal rainfall conditions toward early summer, the Weather Service said.
"If we have got the current conditions prevailing we are most likely to have high temperatures going forward," said Nhlonipho Nhlabatsi, a senior research manager with the Weather Service.
Most parts of South Africa are still experiencing drought conditions and water stress despite the strong El Nino dissipating, the Weather Service said.
"The recovery of South Africa from drought conditions may take some time, depending on rainfall and temperature conditions over the coming spring through summer 2016/17 season," it added.
(Editing by Adrian Croft)