The Western Cape drought is taking its toll on the province’s agricultural sector, with an increasingly bleak picture painted for seasons to come.
A predicted loss of more than 50 000 jobs in the sector has been suggested as farmers cut back on planting and harvesting. Already, the impact is being felt on the economy as R40 million worth of agricultural workers’ wages has been lost this year.
Speaking at a presentation to Parliament yesterday‚ Graham Paulse, head of the Western Cape local government ministry, said “The impact on agriculture is significant. In Ceres‚ 50% less onions have been planted and 50% less potatoes have been planted. That is a direct result of the water shortages in that area with an estimated loss of about R40 million in wages to agri workers.”
He further added that two canning factories in Saldanha Bay may have to cease operations because of water shortages, potentially meaning between 4 000 to 6 000 job losses in the West Coast town and surrounds. “The factory in Lutzville that makes puree out of tomatoes has actually closed for the season”.
In an attempt to preserve water, fruit farmers are pulling flowers off fruit trees so that they will not flower and old vineyards are being ripped out.
But it’s not just the fruit and vegetable production being affected by the ongoing drought – the wine industry is experiencing a knock too. The industry, one of the key economic drivers in the province, has seen a 5% reduction in vine production, effectively meaning a loss of R525 million rand in the value chain.
Capetonians are facing a tough summer in terms of food security. This, coupled with the avian flu epidemic, is expected to drive prices up as the drought tightens its grip over the province.