Olive festival cancelled due to drought

30 January 2018 - 14:29 By Petru Saal
Jug of olive oil with a bowl of olives.
Jug of olive oil with a bowl of olives.
Image: Thinkstock

South Africa’s top olive producing region has been forced to cancel its annual olive festival which draws thousands of visitors due to a shortage of water in the Cape.

Organisers of the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival said they had taken the difficult decision to cancel the 2018 festival in May. They felt it would be irresponsible and inappropriate in light of the extreme water restrictions faced by households‚ businesses and farms in the valley which incorporates the towns of Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel.

The festival traditionally celebrates the end of the olive harvest in May.

The drought is forcing organisers of major events in the province to weigh up the economic consequences of cancelling versus taking potentially costly steps to mitigate the strain on municipal water supplies if a decision is taken to go ahead. The Cape Town Cycle Tour organisers said on Monday the event would go ahead as they had taken extensive measures to bring in additional water to keep the event off the municipal grid.

Chairperson of Riebeek Valley Tourism Klaus Piprek said: “About 12‚000 people visit the Riebeek Valley that weekend. We discussed whether we can justify having so many people coming to Riebeek Valley with the current water restrictions. If you think of all the water that will be used that weekend‚ within a week we would have no water. We try to survive with the little water that we do have‚ so we had to cancel.”

The festival is in its 18th year and this is the first time that it has had to be cancelled.

“The festival doesn’t affect the seasonal workers. The harvest time is when we have seasonal workers. So their jobs will not be affected by the cancelling of the festival. Every guesthouse is booked for that weekend‚ the businesses do well during the festival. But to have that many people in Riebeek Valley for a weekend is not sustainable.”

Piprek said about 2‚000 people had already booked accommodation for the festival and they were encouraged to still make the trip. The majority of people who attend the festival are day visitors‚ estimated to be in the region of 10‚000.

The organisers are offering a refund for tickets already purchased.