South Africa's fruit industry damaged by fire, drought

The future is looking bleak for South Africa's agriculture sector; damage by fires and drought to the Western Cape's wine and fruit industries is estimated at R720 million, yet MEC of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde believes the impact on the entire agriculture sector could run into the billions.

Beverley Schäfer, the chairwoman of the Western Cape Legislature’s standing committee on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture, said the province’s wine and fruit industries have suffered losses far greater than anticipated.

The standing committee was being briefed on the impact of drought and fires on agriculture in the province, with the industries reporting losses amounting to R720m.

Schäfer added the impact of the fires extended beyond the damage to vineyards and orchards.

The drop in production and rise in production cost – added to the damage caused by fires and drought – were expected to result in further losses for the sector, which employs 300,000 people nationally and contributes 3.5 percent to the national GDP.

Fruit grower trade body Hortgro advised the committee that the R720m loss would have a devastating humanitarian impact as the most vulnerable would see food prices soar.

The committee was told that despite the grave losses suffered, there would not be an immediate threat to jobs.

Winde painted a grim picture, saying following the finalisation of a recent departmental assessment, the total loss to the industry would be between 5 and 10 percent of normal production output.

“Our agricultural industry is worth around R50 billion and we are looking at around R2bn to R4bn of what the impact could ultimately be on the industry,” he said.

Stressing that the figures were merely an estimate, Winde said some farms could yield smaller crops.

Winde said each of the 90 agricultural commodities in the province, from grain to citrus, would be affected.

Winde said the fire damage was localised to the Stellenbosch region.

“About R240 000 per hectare was lost and it would take years to get it back to standard.”

(1 South African Rand=0.063 USD)


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