17 July 2020

The drought in large parts of the Western Cape is far from broken and government’s revocation of the classification of drought as a national disaster on 16 July 2020 comes as a shock.

Although widespread and good rains have fallen in large parts of the province in recent weeks, the worst drought-stricken areas have had little to no rain.

Mr Jannie Strydom, CEO of Agri Western Cape, says the drought in the Western Cape is a huge disaster that has cost the agricultural sector billions of Rands since 2015.

He says revoking the drought as a national disaster indicates that government has little empathy with the agricultural sector. “Agri Western Cape understands the need caused by Covid-19, but the need caused by the drought can’t be overlooked. The ability of many producers to survive has been under pressure for years, and we are now looking at the inevitable reality that producers no longer have the financial endurance to cope with the drought. Their position was worsened by unforeseen expenses to comply with Covid-19 regulations. All of this impacts on employment on farms and on the economy of the rural areas,” he says.

Mr Strydom says producers of long-term crops, such as orchards and vineyards, as well as game and ostrich producers, are already excluded from government drought assistance, while they need it critically. Thanks to financial contributions and feed donations to the Agri Western Cape Drought Relief Fund, Agri Western Cape can offer support to livestock farmers, but there is no assistance for producers who have had to pull out hundreds of hectares of vineyards and orchards.

He says agriculture was hopeful that the R500 million that Minister Tito Mboweni had provisionally set aside for disaster management in his February budget speech, would also be used to urgently assist all agriculture producers affected by the drought.

Mr Strydom says Agri Western Cape is grateful for the R25 million in drought relief for the province that was approved earlier by the Minister of Agriculture, Ms Thoko Didiza.

* The Central and Little Karoo are still under devastating drought conditions and the dam levels clearly show this. The Stompdrift and Kammanassie dams at Oudtshoorn stand at 8.5% and 0.1 respectively while the Poortjieskloof dam near Montagu stands at 0%. Dam levels in the Central Karoo looks equally bad with the Floriskraal Dam at Laingsburg at 15.8%, the Leeugamka Dam at 22%, the Oukloof Dam at Prince Albert at 3.78%, the Gamka Dam at Beaufort West at 29.2% and the Gamkapoort Dam at 0.11%. Some parts of the Matzikama district also had welcome but little rain over the past few days. The drought in the area is severe and will require more than one season of above-average rainfall to recover. All the agricultural activities in these regions have already suffered severe damage. These include ostrich, livestock, vineyard, fruit, vegetable seed, lucerne and lucerne seed production.