Western Cape farmers will take years to recover from drought

It would take up to five years before farmers in the Western Cape recovered completely from the current drought.

This was according to André Roux, director of sustainable resource management at the provincial department of agriculture.

Speaking at a recent drought dialogue held at the Cape Institute for Agricultural Training: Elsenburg, Roux said that many questions had been asked about when the drought would finally break.

“We still have a long road ahead of us. After such a drought, it takes three to five years before you can perhaps be comfortable again,” he said.

The two-day dialogue was held to identify the difficulties faced by farmers in the Western Cape because of the drought, and to develop strategies to mitigate its impact.

According to Roux, the low rainfall and high temperature in August and September 2015 had had a serious impact on crops in the province.

“About 200 000t of wheat were lost in the Swartland, while 230ha potatoes were destroyed by heatwaves in the Sandveld area. The fruit industry suffered losses of about R720 million due to smaller fruit produced,” he said.

He added that a reduced wine grape crop could translate to a loss of R525 million when all revenue streams were included.

He warned that the recent good rainfall did not mean that the area was out of the woods yet.

“Many fruit farmers could not carry out the essential post-harvest irrigation, which will have an impact on the next two to three years’ harvests. We also have numerous dams that are not full and we are unsure about how the dam levels will look by October when farmers will have to irrigate again,” he said.

He added that follow-up rain was still desperately needed in the Swartland. If it did not occur, farmers would find themselves in the same situation as last year.

According to Roux, the department had thus far helped a total of 780 farmers, of whom 564 were emerging farmers, with feed purchases. But the department had only R11 million left to help farmers and was urgently seeking additional funds.

He added that the Western Cape government had still not received a cent of the R80 million in drought relief requested from national government.