Drought takes multi-billion rand toll on economy; emergency funding top priority

By Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities:

The Western Cape Government will this week table a report on the impact of the drought in our province at a meeting of the country’s agriculture Ministers.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, will table the report at the MINMEC meeting which takes place in Gauteng on Friday (22 January 2016). This meeting includes the National Minister and all the provincial MECs.

The drought may cost the country more than R2 billion in trade losses.

Minister Winde said his Economic Planning Unit had completed an early analysis of the impact of the drought.

“It has been estimated that we will need to import 750 000 tons of maize because of the decline in production. At the current maize price, this would result in a trade loss of R2.4 billion.”

Minister Winde said the Unit’s analysis also estimated that national agricultural production had declined by more than 42%.

“This drop in production resulted in a 1.1% decrease in the country’s Gross Domestic Production.”

Minister Winde added that consumers would start feeling the effects of the drought as food prices increased.

“The affected towns and the surrounding areas are under huge pressure. We will be tabling a comprehensive report on Friday at the MINMEC.”

“Dealing with the impact of the drought is my foremost priority. That is why in December I approved an emergency support package for emerging farmers in our hardest hit areas. A full assessment was completed and these beneficiaries have been identified. And that is why, in line with the law, we have appealed to the National Government for drought relief.”

Colin Deiner, head of the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre (WCDMC), said: “The WCDMC is continuously monitoring the drought situation in the province and is holding regular integrated meetings with all relevant stakeholders including the national disaster management centre and relevant national departments. The main areas of concern remain the three municipal areas of Witzenberg, Prins Albert and Oudtshoorn. The West Coast and Central Karoo Districts also remain of some concern at present.”

Minister Winde added that the Western Cape Government would continue to encourage smart agricultural practices to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

“We have already introduced conservation agriculture. This approach is being driven by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the Agriculture Research Council. It involves minimum soil disturbance, maximum soil cover and crop rotation.  Our wheat farmers have already seen increased production and profit, and reduced soil erosion. Going forward we will continue to raise awareness of this approach.”

Minister Winde said the Western Cape Government had also partnered with the University of Cape Town and agricultural sector to develop a comprehensive climate change response plan.

This initiative, the SmartAgri project, is being driven jointly by the Provincial Departments of Agriculture, and Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

Further to the above information the National Minister, Senzeni Zokwana, indicated that should the current conditions persist, maize imports may reach five to six million tons, placing a huge burden on our logistics and transport systems.