Despite recent heavy rain in the Western Cape, the province’s farmer association has warned that the industry is not yet out of the woods.
Dam levels have increased slightly to 26% in recent days. However, authorities say levels need to reach an average of 85% before stringent water restrictions can be lifted.
The agricultural sector, which is the largest consumer of water, has had its supply cut between 60% and 87%.
Western Cape farmers have recorded more than R14bn in losses so far, according to Agri Western Cape. CEO Carl Opperman said at the weekend that the water situation had improved from a year ago, but that the crisis was far from over.
“The water restrictions on farmers remain in place … we need our dams to be full. Wine and citrus farmers [have been the hardest hit by the water restrictions]… and the southern Cape has not received much rain,” said Opperman.
Farmers have warned that the agricultural sector in the province faces a jobs bloodbath. An estimated 50,000 people could be out of work if the situation does not improve.
In its weekly agricultural commodities wrap, the Agriculture Business Chamber, an organisation that represents commercial farmers and agribusiness, said the next eight days could bring light showers around the Swartland, Helderberg and Winelands regions of the Western Cape. However, this will not make a meaningful improvement on soil moisture as it is expected to be light and scattered, varying between 16mm and 20mm.
“The precipitation forecast for the week of 16 June 2018 presents more of the same — light showers over a few parts of the Western Cape province.
“The new season crop could be strained because soil moisture is quite low in most areas of the province. The recent showers only improved topsoil moisture levels, not subsoil,” said Wandile Sihlobo, head of agribusiness research at the Agriculture Business Chamber.
Last week, Cape Town deputy mayor Ian Neilson said winter water saving remained vital. “The less we use, the longer we can stretch the water supply in our dams in case we again receive below-average rainfall.”
“The national Department of Water and Sanitation requires that we reduce our water usage to 450-million litres per day. There is a real threat that if we cannot lower usage further, then even tougher restrictions could be imposed,” said Neilson.