Over a billion rand of damage to Western Cape farms after the West Coast floods, Winelands

Over a billion rand of damage to Western Cape farms after the West Coast floods, Winelands

  • The provincial government has estimated that the damage to Western Cape farms after the recent floods cost more than one billion rand.
  • Among the estimated losses are the jobs of seasonal farm workers.
  • The citrus sector has been particularly affected, and many farmers fear that they will not be able to export the produce.

The Western Cape’s agriculture sector has suffered more than R1 billion in damage to infrastructure during the recent floods, and now the provincial Department of Agriculture wants to declare the area a disaster to provide funding for repairs.

According to the department, an updated assessment puts the cost of damage at R1.053 billion, with the West Coast, Cape Winelands and Overburgh affected.

Last month, a series of cold fronts brought heavy rains and caused severe flooding in some areas. The floods caused extensive damage to riverbanks, irrigation equipment, private roads, and sediments over vineyards and fruit orchards.

Ivan Meyer, Agriculture, said the repairs would cost about R748 million for rivers, riparian areas, vineyards and orchards because of large amounts of sediment removed upstream and deposited downstream in rivers, riverbanks, vineyards and orchards – the most expensive on the damage list in interrupt.

Read | Floods hit the Western Cape during the citrus and potato harvest. It can cost farmers large sums

Repairs to irrigation systems are expected to cost R7,7m and fencing repairs are expected to cost approximately R1,4m.

Scenes at the Oosboschstraat filling stations in A

Scenes at Agrimark’s Oosboschstraat filling stations on June 14, 2023 in Paarl in the Cape Winelands.

“The above estimates do not take into account potential losses that occurred along the agricultural value chain, nor do they provide any insight into the impact on future exports,” Meyer added.

The ministry said seasonal workers lost about 18.7 million rand in income, and farmers experienced crop losses of 278 million rand.

Janie Strydom, chief executive of Agri SA Western Cape, said the estimates released by the county administration were based on a survey of affected farmers and were “quite representative of the damage we’ve seen”.

Western Cape Citrus Growers Association Vice President Gerrit van der Merwe assisted with the estimated flood damage to 8,000 hectares of farms in the Orange Valley, Elephant River Valley, Clanwilliam and Citrusdal amounting to R500 million worth of losses to the industry. One of the hardest hit industries was the citrus industry.

He said farmers suffered a 10 to 15 percent drop in fruit as heavy rains caused fruit to fall off the trees.

“The fruits on some trees were completely lost. The impact of these losses could continue into next year,” he said.

According to van der Merwe, the floods reduced the volume of harvested fruit, as many farmers were unable to reach their orchards with tractors for harvesting or rehabilitation.

“The volume of fruit will be affected, and less quantity will be sent to the market. This will have a direct impact on jobs as fewer people are needed to pack the fruit. We expect 10% less fruit to be packaged,” he said.

Van der Merwe added that many farmers in Citrusdal had to deal with the psychological impact of the floods, and found themselves having to look for ways to continue farming, despite the crisis.

“Small farmers have been affected differently, and people have been displaced in rural areas within Citrusdal. We have had to organize food for community members. Some of them are busy rebuilding their homes,” he said.

Citrus Valley, floods

The Riverview slum was flooded after several days of heavy rain.

One citrus grower, Chrisjan Mouton, said farmers could experience losses because some of the fruit would not be of suitable quality for export.

He added that farmers in the area were trying to rebuild what they could, but there were few who had “money lying around” to make repairs.

He added that farms in the area were “extremely damaged” after the “catastrophic” rains.

“There was only a mass of water that fell into the Elephant River. I have never seen anything like it in my life. A farmer in the area planted an orchard in November last year and the trees were still young. The whole orchard was flooded and most of it is gone now. The dam burst and I am flooded.” Water another farm, causing losses estimated at 4 million rand.”

Rural Development and Farm Workers Executive Director Billy Klassen described the floods as “devastating” for rural communities.

However, he said the groups most affected are small farmers and farm workers.

“For farmers, most of what is damaged – their crops, property and equipment – is insured. When disaster strikes, they can claim from the insurance or get help from the government,” he said.

“But most farm workers can’t afford insurance to cover damage to their homes or food gardens.”

Claassen added that farmers can lay off workers if they suffer losses due to flooding, leaving farm workers without income to recover from flood damage.

Meyer said the ministry will try to declare the affected areas a disaster area.

“Armed with a more credible, if conservative, estimate, officials, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, will contact the National Disaster Management Center with a view to declaring flood-affected areas a disaster and unlocking relevant event funding and support that can be provided.”

Meanwhile, the [department] It will ensure that affected producers have access to the best technical information through its extension and advisory services. In addition, the department will also expand the existing river protection work program to flood-affected river systems, as this will mitigate the impact of floods in the future.

He added that the department will prioritize the current allocations and communicate with the national departments for financing to cover the costs of the river protection works.

Declaring the area a disaster will help free up funding to repair infrastructure, such as farm roads, as well as damaged riverbanks, Strydom said.

However, he said, many farmers may find themselves out of pocket for “insurable” losses, such as crop damage. Other insurable losses, he said, include infrastructure, such as irrigation and nets.

“Crop insurance is very expensive, and not all farmers have the ability to insure their crops. Insured infrastructure is not usually covered by disaster support, and this, unfortunately, will be to the individual’s expense,” Strydom said.

He added that the effects of floods can be felt for years, especially if farmers lose their perennial crops in the floods.

“It takes five to eight years for perennial crops for a farmer to break even. If the existing orchards are swept away and farmers have to start from scratch, they could face losses in the future,” he said.

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