File image: IOL.

CAPE TOWN - Farmers in the Western Cape have reportedly lost R14bn since the onset of the impairing drought in the province. 

This comes after Agri Western Ca pe CEO, Carl Opperman confirmed the effect that the drought had on the agricultural sector. 

Farmers have cautioned that the crisis could affect an estimated 50 000 people who could face job loss. 

Another sector that has been affected is the poultry sector, as a result of the recent outbreak of avian flu. 

However, the outbreak seems to have subsided as there had been no new cases detected since October 2017. 

Cape Town may be the first major city in the world to run out of water. With the current pressure on water, officials has imposed strict regulations. 

This has led to the largest consumer of water, the agricultural sector, having their supply cut by between 60% and 87%. 

On the effects on the fruit and vegetable industry, Opperman said that they too have been hit hard by the crisis. 

"Both the fruit and vegetable industries have been hard hit by the drought and water restrictions. In the Ceres area, for example, the limited water supply resulted in 50% less onions and 80% less potatoes being planted this season. This impacts on food production and wage losses of millions of rand for seasonal workers”, said Opperman. 

This will influence food prices which may possible see increases, he said. 

There are hectares of citrus trees that have been cut back and orchards removed, in a bid to save water. 

A tomato puree factory in Lutzville also said it would remain closed this season. 

Deciduous fruit crops would also be about 20% smaller than previous years, said Opperman. 

This will see approximately 50 000 seasonal workers receiving a lower income or no income at all. 

Red meat players were also expecting losses, said Opperman. 

"No more roughage is available in the Western Cape — this also puts pressure on the dairy sector. Grazing and feed shortages resulted in massive culling, causing local red meat supply to tighten, and meat price increases as a result of the drought-induced shortages."

According to Opperman, only 5% of livestock and 22% of sheep herds had been slaughtered in the Western Cape, due to the drought. 

Opperman added that the sector is however receiving support from the provincial government who is attempting to assist farmers and ultimately ease the blow. 

READ ALSO: Drought-hit deciduous fruit farmers mull alternatives

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town said last month that even though farmers use borehole water for their production, they will face the proposed drought charge. 

The City recently proposed that a drought charge is needed to make up the deficit in the City’s revenue which emanates from residents’ water savings and paying significantly less for water and sanitation.

As a result, the City's water and sanitation department projects a deficit of R1.7 billion for 2017/18 in the region. This municipality claims that without this income, water and sanitation service delivery would be affected.

According to Farmer's Weekly, councillor Johan van der Merwe, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for finance said, "All properties within Cape Town municipality’s boundaries on which rates were levied, would be affected by the drought charge if it was approved".

Van der Merwe added, "The owner of a farm will be charged according to the valuation of the agricultural land and, if applicable, the commercial activities taking place on the property. Farms are valued purely on their agricultural value derived from comparable sales of the different farming types within the area".

ALSO READ: Borehole water or not, farmers should pay extra for water - City of Cape Town

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