Wildfires costing Western Cape economy millions - MEC

2017-01-11 21:08
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PICS: Fires consume historic buildings in Paarl

Firefighters battled fires in Paarl which destroyed several buildings and heritage sites.

Cape Town – Wildfires in the Western Cape, that left several historic buildings in Paarl damaged and gutted a lodge in Somerset West, are placing increased pressure on the economy, says Agriculture MEC Alan Winde.

"It is difficult to quantify the cost, but thousands of rands, into several millions, have been lost in the Western Cape fires," Winde told News24 on Wednesday.

"We continually tally up the estimates," he said.

According to Winde, the impact on the economy extended further than just the properties which had burnt down. The larger economic impact was the loss of money for businesses in terms of outstanding orders, and the staff who were dependent on the business for their livelihood.

Winde said it may take years for operations to be restored to normal.

"It depends on each business, if they had insurance etc. But it will take years to restore the damage of the blaze."

Winemaker Alexandra Mcfarlane, from the burnt down Druk-My-Niet farm in Paarl, said it was unlikely that wine production at their business would be back on track anytime soon.

"I think it is highly unlikely that we will be able to make something of the exact standard that Druk-My-Niet is known for," Mcfarlane said.

"Even if my vineyards survived, all my irrigation pipes have melted, so there is no way to water the vineyards that survived."

According to Agri Western Cape spokesperson Jeanne Boshoff, vineyards may take years to restore.

"It depends on how far the vineyards have been damaged, if the roots are affected etc, but, [after] you replanted a vineyard, you will have a small harvest after three years and only a full production after five years," Boshoff said.

Boshoff also expressed concern about the impact on farmworkers.

"Besides the impact on the economy, several farmworkers also suffered great losses when they lost all of their possessions in the Paarl fire," she said.

Meanwhile, City of Cape Town safety and security mayoral committee member JP Smith said the firefighting budget might not be sufficient for the fire season.

"The Somerset West fires have already used a large portion of our firefighting budget. There are still two months left of the fire season and I don’t think we’d have enough money," Smith said.

Read more on:    cape town  |  fires

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