SA drought not broken after driest year in history
Co-operative governance minister Des van Rooyen‚ who chairs the cabinet subcommittee on the drought‚ said last year was the driest since rainfall records began in 1904‚ and dams across the country are at their lowest levels in years‚ standing at 53% nationwide. Van Rooyen said as part of ongoing drought mitigation measures‚ the Department of Water and Sanitation has deployed motorised water tankers and to date some 8 million litres of water has been delivered to approximately 49‚200 people in North West‚ KwaZulu-Natal‚ the Free State and the Eastern Cape The departments of agriculture‚ nationally and provincially‚ have allocated R268 million towards drought relief from reprioritised funds. Provinces have made available R173 million to assist farmers with animal feed and stock‚ Van Rooyen said.In the short term the impact of drought on primary production has been severely felt in the livestock sector. Due to massive declines in natural grazing and crop residue‚ livestock farmers have had to resort to using any available form of feed to keep their animals alive. Massive livestock losses have been recorded throughout the country with statistics showing a 15% decline in the number of cows between 2013 and 2016."The situation is not likely to change over the short- to medium-term due to the reduction and erosion of grazing capacity to about 30%. Within the feed intensive livestock sectors‚ which typically also compete with competitively priced imported products‚ profitability is under pressure as a result of high feed costs‚" Van Rooyen opined.Sunflower was the only summer crop for which planted area did not decline during the 2015/16 production season. The average decline in national planting area for maize was 30%‚ with Free State and North West provinces experiencing drops of 32% and 43% respectively. White and yellow maize has been affected negatively by the drought with commodity prices rising‚ which was reinforced by the depreciation of the exchange rate. As far as consumers were concerned‚ this year saw record highs in summer grain prices as a result of the drought.The department of rural development and land reform has approved a total of R286 million for drought relief intervention in 2015/16 financial year.The support provided to affected communities and farmers includes the identification of land for relocation of livestock‚ revitalisation of feedlots‚ auction sales of livestock‚ provision of feed and water for livestock‚ support to small holder farmers and sugar cane farmers and the creation of firebreaks.Fodder banks have been established in rural areas and animal feed has been delivered to farmers as part of efforts to maintain livestock‚ Van Rooyen said.