If you don't feel positive, you should stop - wheat farmer

2015-11-10 14:45
A wheat farm in Eendekuil on the West Coast. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

A wheat farm in Eendekuil on the West Coast. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town – You have to feel positive as a farmer, otherwise you should stop.

So said 53-year-old Hugo de Waal, owner of a wheat farm in Eendekuil on the West Coast.

He and other farmers in the area are worried about how water shortages will affect their production - and income. 

“Weather for any farmer will always be a challenge,” he said. 

“It can make or break you. I just think nowadays you feel it much more economically because production costs are high.”

The winter rain arrived a month later than usual and initially it looked good, said the sixth-generation farmer.
But then it stopped.

He described it as a “green drought” because there is still moisture, just not enough.

Now he expects his wheat production on the 2 000ha farm will be a third of what it usually is.

That equates to 0.8 tons out of the usual 2.4 tons of wheat per hectare.

Money for a rainy day

The talk of the town is that next year could be quite a challenge. 

A father of two, De Waal said many farmers might not be able to pay their bills, including school fees, next year.

 “If you don’t get money, it’s not going to happen. If you have capital left for a rainy day, you will have to draw from that.

“We have 12 workers. Some of them come generations with you. We normally try to avoid losses as far as possible. But their bonuses are gone now and they won’t have the Christmas they usually have.”

De Waal said he enjoys the “freedom” of farming, which is why he followed in his forefathers' footsteps.

He owns a few livestock but he depends on wheat for his livelihood.

“Margins are getting smaller and the risk is getting bigger.”

Disaster areas

Mornings start early and the work is mostly physical. His wife helps with the bookkeeping.

She has been "extremely supportive in this uncertain time".

“She is not saying much but you can see it in her face. She always asks what is going on. You can’t fight it or do anything about it.”

“No disaster area has been declared in the province. Dam levels across the province are on average around 70% to 75% full,” said environmental affairs MEC Anton Bredell.

Rainfall patterns have shown a decreasing trend in the past few years.

Bredell said predictions are that rainfall will decrease further in years to come.

“We must, therefore, use water wisely.”

The province’s disaster management director Colin Deiner said they are working on forecasts and analysing trends.

“If you are well prepared, the impact of any disaster is certainly much less severe.”

Read more on:    agriculture  |  drought  |  natural disasters

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