Situation looks dire for drought-stricken Cape farmers
Experts say with the agricultural sector in a recession due to poor outputs as a result of drought, predictions for the economic outlook for the coming year remained bleak.
Parts of the Western Cape are still experiencing severe drought and some communities are relying on goodwill donations to survive.
Earlier this month, the Water Warriors organisation led one of its biggest donation handouts to communities in the Karoo, where some despondent farmers are on the verge of losing their farms.
With harvest already in progress, farmers in the area are anticipating lower than average yields.
Director of Water Warriors Deon Smit said from having conducted drop-offs in the towns of Prince Albert and Leeu-Gamka, he thought the dire situation farmers and farmworkers find themselves in now was similar to that experienced in other parts of the province.
“The mood in many of these communities is down. Some are on the verge of giving up and, while we get requests for assistance all over the province, deciding where the help is needed more is a difficult choice,” said Smit.
The recent spate of load shedding intensified problems within the agricultural sector, adding more strain to an already burdened industry at a crucial time for parts of the sector.
Agri SA’s chairperson of the Centre of Excellence: Economics and Trade, Nicol Jansen, said the latest round of load shedding had come at an important and busy time for producers and agribusinesses.
“Load shedding has a negative impact on energy-intensive and irrigation-dependent agricultural industries throughout the entire chain from farm gate to the consumer’s home. The maintenance of the cold chain is critical to ensure food quality and shelf life,” he said.
In his latest report, Wandile Sihlobo, chief agricultural economist at Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, said the outlook for the coming year was unlikely to see big recoveries in the sector given the economic slump from the year’s quarterly GDP figures.
“For now, it is not easy to make a strong call about agricultural economic condition in 2020. It is only at the end of January 2020 where one will have a better sense of weather conditions as well as their impact thereafter,” he said.