Prospects grim for Western Cape farms

25 October 2017 - 16:35
By Aphiwe Deklerk
Young ostriches in a camp on the Ostrich Safari farm just outside Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape.
Image: ANTON SCHOLTZ Young ostriches in a camp on the Ostrich Safari farm just outside Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape.

The Western Cape is facing a jobs bloodbath as 50‚000 workers in the agriculture sector might get the sack due to the drought.

A rise in prices for some vegetables and fruit may also be on the cards as farmers have been forced to cut production.

During a presentation to Parliament on Wednesday‚ head of the Western Cape local government ministry Graham Paulse painted a grim picture of the agricultural sector.

“Social welfare‚ the impact [will be] significant. It is estimated that there will be agricultural job losses in the region of about 50‚000‚” said Paulse.

In his report‚ he stated that the layoffs could lead to social and humanitarian problems. In addition many might move to the Cape Town metro or other towns to find work.

“[The Impact on agriculture] is significant Ceres‚ 50% less onions have been planted and 50% less potatoes have been planted. That is a direct result of the water shortages in that area with an estimated loss of about R40-million in wages to agri workers‚” said Paulse.

“The factory in Lutzville that makes puree out of tomatoes has actually closed for the season‚” he added.

He said deciduous fruit farmers expected a 20% smaller crop and the smaller fruit would yield lower profits.

Last year farmers produced smaller fruit than they had in 2015. Paulse said this resulted in losses to the tune of about R720-million.

Farmers have resorted to removing the flowers from trees so that they cannot bear fruit as there is not enough water.

“They are taking out all orchards to limit the use of water and also they are cutting back on about 30% on the citrus fruit trees‚” he added.

The wine industry‚ seen as one of the key economic drivers in the province‚ has not been spared.

“A 5% reduction in the vine production is equivalent to a R175-million loss at the farm gates‚ with the value chain [loss being] about R525-million‚” he said.

Grain farmers will not harvest this year. They would‚ instead‚ allow livestock to graze in their fields. There is a shortage of fodder for animals too and some farmers are slaughtering their livestock as a result.

His presentation comes amid fears that the City of Cape Town may run out of water by March next year unless water consumption is reduced.

However‚ local government MEC‚ Anton Bredell and Cape Town’s mayoral committee member responsible for water‚ Xanthea Limberg‚ showcased the city’s plans to avert “Day Zero” - the day the taps run dry.

Both have called for more funding for plans such as desalination plants.

Water and sanitation minister‚ Nomvula Mokonyane‚ also assured the committee that her department has been working with the city and province during the drought disaster.