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Vegetable production in province severely affected: onion and potato plantings 50-80% down in some areas
Capetonians behaving badly in their water usage
As the weekly dam levels in the Western Cape have again made a turn for the worse, 1% down, the City of Cape Town has just announced level six water restrictions for next year.
Mayor Patricia de Lille yesterday said at a city council meeting: “As of yesterday, our dam levels stand at 35.1%, while collective consumption stands at 611 million litres per day. We are at the start of a long, dry summer and have yet to reach the target of 500 million litres per day.” She added: “A week ago we had very unseasonal summer rain and this triggered Capetonians to behave badly and increase their consumption. That brings Day Zero forward.”
Day Zero is the day when many taps in the city will be turned off and residents will have to queue for water. For the moment, Day Zero is merely months away: 20 May 2018.
According to the city’s water dashboard, only 40% of residents are currently reducing their per capita water usage to 87 litres or less per day.
Drought's impact on vegetable production
The impact on the agricultural sector, which has to compete with Cape Town’s continued population influx for water, is bearing the brunt of what some in the agricultural sector regard as years of under spending and lax planning at provincial and national government levels.
The effect of the drought on the fruit sector is often mentioned, but vegetable production is even more affected, as farmers focus on high-value, export fruit crops at the expense of vegetables for domestic consumption.
There have been many reports of the decrease of market vegetable production in the Cape, like in the Philippi Horticultural Area. An industry expert in the Koue Bokkeveld confirms to FreshPlaza that 50% less onions were planted this season and of those that were planted, yield could be up to 70% down due to water pressure.
The drop in onion plantings was confirmed to parliament by Graham Paulse, head of the provincial Department of Local Government, at the end of October, when he also referred to a halving in the amount of potatoes planted in the Western Cape. According to Agri Western Cape, this could now be down to 80% fewer potato plantings this season.
Maintaining a healthy international demand for South African agricultural commodities is imperative
South Africa’s economy recently exited recession, with agriculture the only growing sector in the economy, but job losses of up to 50,000 in this sector in the Western Cape are expected due to the drought. Many of these job losses occur downstream, as fruit canning and vegetable processing factories have to close or curtail operations.
In fact, despite challenges on many fronts, agriculture surprisingly recorded its best quarterly growth in 21 years during the third quarter of 2017.
“On the agricultural trade side, the primary and secondary agriculture sector generated R124 billion from foreign markets, subsequently recording a R38.6 billion positive trade balance. This was driven by a solid export performance from fruit, grains, dairy products and sugar commodities. Maintaining a healthy international demand for South African agricultural commodities is imperative because it sustains jobs, enhances growth thus reduces poverty,” says Sifiso Ntombela, head of trade and international markets at Agbiz, an influential agricultural business chamber.
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