Cape Town - The Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) has backed the province in calling for a swift disaster declaration to help flood-stricken farmers and communities.
This follows extensive damage to agricultural infrastructure by floods in the province in mid-June.
The provincial Agriculture Department released an updated assessment of the estimated financial cost of the damage, which it estimates “conservatively” at more than R1 billion.
The department came up with the figures after conducting a rapid assessment from June 26 to June 30 which considered damage to primary agriculture sites on the West Coast, in the Cape Winelands and the Overberg.
The assessment confirmed extensive damage to riverbanks, irrigation equipment, private roads and sediment over vineyards and fruit orchards.
Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer said his department’s officials would join the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to approach the National Disaster Management Centre in the hope of having the flood-damaged areas declared a disaster.
He said their aim would be to unlock the relevant funding and support that could be provided.
The CGA said they were ready to offer any assistance in securing a rapid declaration of disaster.
CGA chief executive Justin Chadwick said they hoped the National Disaster Management Centre would act with urgency.
“The full scope of all losses are, of course, not yet known. Damage to riverbanks, irrigation equipment, private roads, vineyards and fruit orchards were extensive.
“Citrus growers in three district municipalities were affected by the severe rains that fell.”
Especially hard hit was the Cederberg Local Municipality, home to a large number of citrus growers.
The CGA calculated that damages in the Citrusdal valley alone amounted to R55 000 per hectare of citrus.
Initially, the floods caused a two-week delay in the harvesting and shipping of citrus, but Chadwick said the efforts of farmers and farm workers in the interim meant that they had now caught up with the export season schedule.
Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) spokesperson Mbali Mathenjwa said the citrus season was one of South Africa’s biggest as the country ranked among the top suppliers of citrus fruits in the world.
“During this season, Transnet Port Terminals handles vessels destined for over 100 markets.”