Climate & Agriculture
Sunny South Africa
Lying halfway between the Equator and the Antarctic, South Africa mostly enjoys a temperate climate. With its warm weather and long hours of sunshine, it’s sometimes referred to as ‘sunny South Africa’.
The influence of the sea
Winters along the coasts are generally mild. In contrast, temperatures dip lower inland and higher mountain ranges have snow.
Summer runs from November to February, with average maximum temperatures between 25°C -35°C, though these can soar to 50°C in the low coastal plains.
Winter, from June to August, brings average minimum temperatures of 1°C - 10°C, depending on the region.
Cold and warm currents
The cold northward-flowing Benguela Current cools the west coast and helps contribute to its stable temperatures and dryness. The warm southward-flowing Mozambique and Agulhas currents increase temperatures along the east and southeast coasts.
The country’s climate benefits from its geography. Much of the land has a high elevation which tempers the heat, even in the northern regions.
South Africa’s climate is also influenced by a subtropical high (a nearby belt of high-pressure) and by the country's surrounding oceans.
Rainfall is variable and generally decreases from east to west. Over one-fifth of the country is arid, receiving less than 200mm of rain a year. Approximately half the country is semi-arid, with between 200-600mm annually. Only around 10% of the country has more than 1,000 mm of rain a year.
The 'bread basket' regions
The main growing regions lie along the more fertile soils of the Western Cape valleys and the KwaZulu-Natal province in the west.
With low rainfall in many parts, farmers often face droughts and water shortages. And soil is poor in many regions. So, arable land accounts for only approximately one-tenth of the area.
South Africa's produce
Major crops are corn (maize), wheat, sugarcane and fruit (particularly grapes, apples and citrus fruits).
Meat (particularly cattle and chickens) and dairy production are also significant, mainly around the urban centres.
Wine is South Africa’s most profitable agricultural product – more litres are exported than are drunk locally. In 2009, South Africa celebrated 350 years of wine-making at the southernmost part of the Cape, reflecting its introduction to the area by the first Dutch settlers.