The South African government has relaxed stringent water quotas imposed for the past two years on the 200 citrus and cash crop producers, in an economic boost for beleaguered Gamtoos River Valley growers drawing water from Kouga Dam.
The easing of restrictions – from 40% of farmers’ allocated annual drawings to 85% for the new water year which starts in July – comes on the back of discussions between the Department of Water and Sanitation, Kouga Dam custodians the Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB) and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
The move comes as the Kouga Dam’s water level remains steady at about 45%, currently sitting at 44.5% capacity.
Growers got just 20% of their annual water allocations in mid-2018
The restrictions, introduced in 2017 when the dam level sank critically low, saw farmers able to draw just 20% of their annual water allocations in mid-2018 – a move which signalled cutbacks in citrus and cash crop production in a valley renowned locally and internationally for its quality produce. This, in turn, saw job cuts for seasonal and permanent workers in the region.
GIB CEO Rienette Colesky described the easing of restrictions as “good news for farmers”. “The past two years of severe restrictions put an exceptional strain on farmers in the region,” she said. “If [severe restrictions] carried on for a third year, the consequences would have been dire.”
GIB chairman and citrus farmer in the valley, Tertius Meyer, welcomed the easing of restrictions which would give “breathing room” to farmers. “We are still facing a drought, if you look at the below-average rainfall we’ve received over the past 12 months. So, the easing of restrictions makes a significant difference,” Meyer told rnews.co.za.
“At the end of the day it’s still not the full [100%] allocation, but it’s something. More [water-intensive] vegetable crops will probably start being planted again, which in turn will create more employment.”