According to Agri Eastern Cape president Doug Stern, farmers in the province have been under great pressure for four concurrent seasons, in which they have received “way below average rainfall”.
“The recent rains were great news for some, with the level of the Kouga Dam rising from an unsustainable 7% to over 50%,” said Stern. “But while that takes the pressure off farmers in the Hankey/Patensie area, who are reliant on that water to produce crops from potatoes to citrus, it does not help the rest of the province, especially the northern areas where there are huge problems due to the extremely cold weather experienced in August and September.
“The late, unexpected cold weather was not conducive to vegetation growth. That, and also there is a desperate need for follow-up rains.”Stern pointed out that, due to the drought, many farmers’ cash flows had been exhausted.
“The only thing which saved many farmers from going under is the huge increase in commodity prices for red meat, fibre and citrus [creating higher revenue for cash-strapped farmers]. Without that increase, results would have been disastrous for all concerned,” he said.
“The downside, of course, is the effect on already hard-hit consumers, with these prices expected to remain inflated for at least five years as farmers try to rebuild their herds.”