Drought still hurting farmers

2017-08-01 14:03
Dam levels in the Mooi-Mgeni System.

Dam levels in the Mooi-Mgeni System. (Graphics24/Theuns Kruger)

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Despite better-than-expected rainfall, KwaZulu-Natal farmers are finding it tough to make up for the financial losses they suffered during the drought.

Provincial farmers’ organisations told The Witness on Monday that the problem was compounded by the tough economic climate, which saw the purchase prices of livestock and feed increase.

This comes as Umgeni Water is to find out today whether its proposal to continue its 15% water restriction on the Mgeni system, which feeds Pietermaritzburg and other areas, will be approved.

The Witness reported last month that Umgeni Water had warned that consumer behaviour needed to change if water restrictions were to be lifted in the near future.

Chairperson of the KZN Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, Hendrik Botha, said farmers saw good rains across the province.

“Weather is one thing, but economics is another. There were losses over the last three years when the drought was bad. Farmers are still battling to go up economically.

“With [livestock] prices, cattle and sheep price adjustments, they are finding it tough.”

He said livestock farmers were managing their cash flow problems by trying to breed livestock instead of buying. “It’s not going very well for them, but they’ve got to be positive; with any business you’ve got to be positive.”

He added: “In the winter time we normally do not get much rain. We’re in the middle of winter now, and they should be in a position to get through the winter.”

CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) Sandy la Marque said farmers in their union also had to buy water in recent times to make up for water deficits.

“People had to resort to drastic measures, especially last year. They are struggling with reduced crops and livestock. Getting back up to be viable economically takes time, especially in this economically tough time.”

She said farmers in recent years have had to purchase water, adding to their economic strain.

“People are trying to farm smarter. They are looking carefully at where the markets are to ensure they remain economically viable.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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