Some drought-hit farmers in Western Cape to be 'left in the lurch'

2016-05-18 13:15
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Cape Town – Not all farmers in the drought-stricken West Coast and Central Karoo districts could be assisted with feeding their livestock, the provincial standing committee on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture heard on Wednesday.

A preliminary estimate of around R59m was needed, but only R32m in funding was available, said provincial agriculture department official Andre Roux.

This figure was based on a preliminary assessment of the costs of supporting around 8 300 livestock for the next five months.

Roux, who is director of sustainable resource management, said farmers needed to buy fodder because there was not much for animals to graze.

"The agricultural output and employment is likely to drop and, consequently, more people are to be exposed to food insecurity."

He also enlightened the committee on the impact of the drought on other sectors.

Shortened shelf life

A total of 200 000 tons of wheat were lost due to lack of rain, while 230 hectares of potatoes were destroyed by heat waves in the Sandveld area.

The fruit industry had lost R720m in smaller fruit.

High temperatures shortened the shelf life of table grapes that were exported, incurring huge losses because they could not be used for anything else.

"When they arrived there, there was a big problem with quality," he explained.

To maintain the cold chain and pack the fruit in optimal conditions, some farmers in the Northern Cape were flying out their grapes, said the department’s chief research and technology director, Dr Ilse Trautmann.

Committee member Matlhodi Maseko asked what could be done to prepare for global warming.

Pressure on government

Roux said they had released a strategy document this week.

"We can mitigate water loss, but there is unfortunately not much we can do with temperature."

Committee chairperson Beverley Schäfer praised the department for a transparent and extensive briefing.

"The important part is to put pressure on national government to give us the money we need to find the shortfall we are looking for," she said.

She said the provincial agricultural department operated almost like a "social grant system" in supporting emerging farmers and taking over some of national government’s mandate.

It concerned her that a large majority of the province’s farmers would be "left in the lurch", without support.

Read more on:    cape town  |  drought

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