Cape farmers lose 25% of orchards, vineyards as result of drought

This has had a knock-on effect on rural employment, with the loss of about 30 000 seasonal farm worker jobs during the harvest season, University of Cape Town (UCT) Professor Mark New has said.
Fruit and wine farmers usually replaced their orchards and vineyards in cycles, when the plants reached the end of their lifespans after 15 to 20 years.
But once national government had cut off the water supply to farmers, when they had reached the limit of their drought allocation in late February, many of the deciduous fruit and wine farmers stopped irrigating those orchards and vineyards which were due to be replaced in the next five to six years.
De Lille ‘really changed momentum’ Demand had increased and the Department of Water and Sanitation, responsible for bulk water supplies, had been incredibly reluctant to bring on additional water supplies in the Western Cape.
In addition, the City of Cape Town’s water managers had been rather complacent during 2017 and had thought the city would not get a third dry year.
The narrative around the drought had changed last year when Mayor Patricia de Lille had decided to take action by setting up a drought crisis committee.
New said that water managers now should be thinking that there is an almost equal chance of another dry year this rainy season.
Water managers would get an indication by the end of April if this winter was going to be dry or wet.
“If rainfall in April is above average, there is a high probability the whole year will be above average.
If low, there is a high probability that that pattern will persist to the end of the year.” This meant water managers would have an early warning system by the end of April, and certainly by the end of June, which would mean they could institute water demand management processes based on evidence, rather than wait until the end of the rainy season to take stock.—News24

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