Ricochet News

VIDEO: Eastern Cape farmers have been hit hard by current drought: AgriEC President

By Tai Chishakwe - Jan 25, 2017
VIDEO: Eastern Cape farmers have been hit hard by current drought: AgriEC President

Despite some rains that have fallen over the Eastern Cape recently, the province remains in the grip of a drought – reportedly, the worst in 30 years, which has resulted in dams drying out and residents in some municipalities having to cope with water restrictions.

But it is in the province’s agricultural sector that the current drought has been most severe.

In an interview with Business Link magazine, Agri-Eastern Cape President, Doug Stern, said that the drought has severely devastated Eastern Cape farmers – both in their pockets as well as on the field.

“There has been some rains in January, which has brought some relief to farmers, but we have not had the amounts of rain that we need for us to say the drought has broken – not by any stretch of imagination!

“Looking at the Eastern Cape, as a whole, it’s the Western part that is in a critical situation,” he described.

“In addition, the situation along the coast is also becoming critical – that is the area around East London right through to the Tsitsikamma. It’s very dry at the moment and they are also in a desperate need for rains.”

He said while the Northern part of the province had some rains in October and November of last year, a large part of that area has not had any rain recently.

“Another area of concern is the Fish River irrigation area – around the Gariep Dam. That dam has not had significant inflows of water and farmers are already coping with water restriction as we speak. That is an area of concern because all our dairy farming and milk production happens in that area.

“Then you also have the citrus farmers in the Sundays River Valley, who also depend on the same dam. To put it in a nutshell, Eastern Cape farmers are buckling under the pressure of the drought – we are on tender-hooks,” said Stern.

He said that the Eastern Cape is not predominantly a crop farming area, so the drought has not exactly affected crop yields. However, the province is dominated by livestock farmers – and they have been hit hard.

“Livestock production in the province has taken a huge nose-dive. Because of the drought, there has not been enough food for the animals.

“Farmers have had to selling their animals to local abattoirs in order to ensure they can sustain smaller herds. From that bit of money coming in, they are buying feed to keep the remaining animals alive,” Stern described.

“It’s a predicament. The cash-flow of farmers in the province is now generally under pressure.”

He also warned that as the drought continues, local consumers – especially in the low income bracket, are going to feel its effects in the shopping basket.

“As the drought continues, the prices of commodities are going to continue rising, that is a fact,” Stern described.

To hear what else he had to say about the current drought, watch the video below;

  Main image: Agri-Eastern Cape President, Doug Stern. Courtesy of Agri-Eastern Cape.