More regions run into trouble as drought continues

Since November 2015, Agri Western Cape has distributed 5 500 tonnes of feed at a cost of R4 million to Western Cape producers in need of drought assistance thanks to generous contributions by producers, business and the public to the Agri Western Cape Drought Relief Fund (excluding the financial contribution by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture).

Initially, Agri Western Cape only assisted producers in the province’s two drought disaster areas: the Central Karoo and the West Coast District. However, due to another dry winter in 2016 and very little rainfall in the Western Cape’s summer rainfall regions, more producers ran into trouble as dam levels continued to drop and farms dams ran dry. Devastating fires earlier this year in the Southern Cape and Knysna areas destroyed what little grazing was left in the area, resulting in producers in the Eden district now also requiring urgent help.

Our Drought Relief Fund is depleted and while producers in the northern provinces are generously donating feed, the transporting cost is extremely expensive. Anyone wishing to contribute, can do so at Agri Western Cape, ABSA Cheque – 400 960 313, ref drought relief.

Up to date, the winter season has not yet delivered the critical rainfall that the province and the agriculture sector urgently need, but producers, especially those in the province’s grain producing regions, are hopeful for a late winter with rain well into late September.

After two seasons of under average rainfall, no post-harvest water is available for our citrus and deciduous fruit producers. This will surely have an impact on next year’s harvest. In many areas the early winter was very warm and very little snow and cold units can also have an effect on the fruit.

Even if the dams fill up and groundwater is back in place, it will not solve the problem. Water demand in the Western Cape is rising, and agriculture needs its part. The province’s water needs to get better management status so that the Western Cape does not end up in similar situations in the future. We are now in a worse position than the same time last year. The need for water in the province is huge, but the national Department of Water and Sanitation does not have a workable plan that can be rolled out.