Fires threaten economic sustainability - Agri Western Cape

2017-01-19 21:23
Bezweni Lodge was burnt in the fire that ravaged the Somerset West area. (Herman van den Berg Facebook)

Bezweni Lodge was burnt in the fire that ravaged the Somerset West area. (Herman van den Berg Facebook)

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Cape Town - The recent wave of fires in the Western Cape could compromise economic sustainability in the province, farming body Agri Western Cape said on Thursday.

The destruction of vineyards, orchards, and agriculture infrastructure worth millions of rand in the province since December 2016 would have a ripple effect on the country's entire economy, including the rural economy, spokesperson Jeanne Boshoff told News24.

Western Cape economic development MEC Alan Winde agreed.

"Most of the fires are burning in the rural areas, which means that [they have] a direct effect on the rural economy. [They] mostly burn on farm and agricultural land which is also linked to tourism."

Winde said he was concerned about emerging farmers affected by wildfires.

"In Clanwilliam and Hermanus fires particularly affected small, emerging black-owned farms which do not have extensive credit. This compromises their ability to get back on their feet," he said.

Last week News24 reported that vineyards and orchards could take up to five years to restore.

READ: Severe fire warning issued for Western Cape as blazes continue

Drought 'a bigger risk'

Winde said he believed food prices would not be affected by wildfires.

"Obviously, there is a bigger risk to the economy than the fires. The ongoing drought for the past two years is a bigger risk and has a long-term effect."

He said he had faith that the agriculture industry would overcome drought conditions.

"It is interesting to see how agriculture adapts. Non-irrigation vineyards now have better returns. While many might now have smaller production, they push up the quality of what they produce, meaning that they can even out at the end," Winde said.

Wildfires in the Western Cape have caused extensive damage. In December and January several properties were destroyed in Paarl, Simon's Town, and Somerset West.

In Paarl vineyards at least three farms were severely damaged.

According to local government MEC Anton Bredell, wildfires had destroyed large areas of farmland in Stilbaai.

"All fences and grazing have been lost and virtually no vegetation remains," he said.

Read more on:    cape town  |  fires
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