Climate change killing Western Cape agriculture

Farming is becoming more expensive, more unpredictable, and less profitable. 
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According to a 2018 report the number of farms in South Africa has declined by more than two-thirds compared to the early 1990s due to climate change.

Janse Rabie, Agri SA policy head  says unpredictability in weather patterns and the associated impacts makes planning considerably more difficult and heighten the risk for farming in South Africa.

Roland Hunter,project manager of the African Climate & Development Institute says farming is becoming more expensive, more unpredictable, and less profitable.

Hunter claims unreliable yields, food shortages, higher costs are plaguing farms and these problems contribute to a myriad of other problems.

Some farms in the wine industry are trying new crop production methods. As the average price paid per ton of grapes is not worth the production costs, wine estates are aiming for smaller volumes of higher quality grapes for top-end wines.

Muratie in Stellenbosch kills off half of its crop of certain varietals every season to make a more concentrated grape, according to the tasting room manager Lawrence White.

Adaptation alone cannot overcome the climate change obstacles facing agriculture.

An estimated 200 fields were cleared in the Groenland water management area and the Lower Olifants water management area between 2017 and 2018 due to a drop in production. The primary reason for falling crop production is the lack of water.

Western Cape farmers continue to endure an exhausting drought that began in 2015 or 2016 depending on the area. Farmers like Laubscher Coetzee an ostrich and alfalfa farmer in Oudtshoorn are struggling to adapt.

Laubscher Coetzee’s farm in Oudtshoorn in December 2015. The same three Cyprus trees can be seen in the top picture. Photo credit:GroundUp

Oudtshoorn farmers say the average yearly harvest of lucerne seed has declined from 550 to 50 tons, ostrich production numbers have dropped by 60,000 birds and the number of livestock animals available for auction has also decreased.

Coetzee described how farmers are trying to adapt. The first thing is to reduce the wage bill, other farmers are reducing work hours and not replacing retired workers.

Some farmers have emigrated.

He says many argue the solution is to diversify,but he questions how you diversify without water.

In the Western Cape about 33,000 jobs in the agricultural sector have been lost since the drought.

According to Rabie greater cooperation between all role-players, including government is needed and comprehensive disaster management structures and processes are still lacking despite their vitality.

More: GroundUp

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