Western Cape needs R88m to help drought-hit farmers

2016-02-03 19:21
(iStock)

(iStock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town – The Western Cape government needs R88m to avert total disaster for farmers whose livelihoods have been decimated by the drought in parts of the province.

But first, Cabinet has to officially declare a disaster in the province and national treasury must decide how much it can afford.

"We cannot have black farmers who are beneficiaries of land reform... go through this challenging time, [and] throw in the towel," said Darryl Jacobs, acting deputy director general for the department of agricultural development and support services.

"We want the farmworkers and the agri-workers to remain on these farms."

Jacobs was part of a team that briefed the Western Cape legislature's standing committee on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture on the impact of the drought and the recent fires.

The West Coast and Central Karoo districts, as well as the municipalities of Prince Albert, Oudtshoorn and Witzenberg have been hardest hit. Prince Albert and Witzenberg were classified as drought areas on January 11.

Cabinet must declare drought

Now they just need to be gazetted. Cabinet has already declared droughts in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State.

The Public Finance Management Act stipulated that declaring is a function of national government so in the meantime, the Western Cape is dipping into its own budget.

Jacobs said the province did not want farmers to go under because of the lag between classifying and gazetting a disaster so it had taken the unprecedented step of providing about R1.5m to 30 farmers and farmworkers while it waited for the declaration.

If it is granted, it will have to be stretched far. 

To qualify, farmers must have lost between half to all of their crops. They would receive R6 500 per household per month for at least the next six months and their agri-workers would receive 70% of their minimum wage, amounting R1 824.75 each per month.

Farmers in the Southern Cape have already donated fodder to Western Cape farmers, but another R3m for this year and R3m for next year would be needed to transport the fodder.

No photosynthesis

Andre Roux, director of sustainable resource management in the department, showed satellite images indicating that no photosynthesis had taken place over vast swathes of land in the province.

"Nothing is growing. There is no fodder for the animals to eat. It is not a normal drought. It is a very severe drought," said Roux.

The committee heard that at its most extreme, on October 7 last year, Vredendal recorded a temperature of 48.3 degrees. The total recorded rainfall for 2015 was 403 millimetres – the driest year since 1904.

This makes crops wither and any rain that does fall is lost to evaporation in the extreme heat. "Whether it is climate change, or the drought cycle –we do not know," he said.

In South Africa, 83% of maize, 53% of wheat and 73% of sugar cane is produced in dry land conditions, making rain even more important. The maize harvest is expected to be 25% down on the figure for the 2015/16 season and many wheat crops in the Swartland have failed.

Desperately need help

According to Carl Opperman, CEO of Agri Western Cape, which represents about 4 500 farmers, they desperately need help.

He said agriculture was always last on the list of budget priorities, but without food, education, health and other important national programmes wouldn't be effective.

"In the body, agriculture is the blood that runs through it," he said.

Even if it rained now, it would take farmers up to five years to recover from the drought.

They are even battling to feed their animals but fodder and lucerne costs have escalated so much that when the initial support estimate was calculated by the department in November, the cost was R63m compared with the R88m revised figure in January.

To make matters worse, the fires that raged in the Western Cape over the past months have caused massive damage to crops and infrastructure.

Opperman warned that unless it rained soon, there might only be 15 weeks of water left for farmers in the province.

Read more on:    cape town  |  agriculture

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The moon is in your sign enhancing your innovative and busy mind. Avoid the tendency to rely too heavily on looking for outer...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.