Minister Alan Winde has outlined the impact of extreme weather events on the Western Cape’s agriculture sector, including a snapshot of how the drought has affected different regions and crops in the province.

“We are still experiencing drought conditions in some parts of the Western Cape. These trends underscore the need for a new approach to resource management. That is why we launched a co-ordinated climate response action plan, Smart Agri, in partnership with the private sector and academia. One of Smart Agri’s recommendations is conservation agriculture, where we use innovative methods including minimum tillage and crop rotation. 

"Our research farm, Langgewens, is showing the positive effect of conservation agriculture and we’ll be releasing a report on the situation there  in the next few weeks.”

Please see below for further details on the different regions:

Climate and rainfall:

  • The Cape Town metropole and Cape Winelands recorded below normal rainfall.  The majority of the Central Karoo and North West (Bitterfontein area) obtained extremely weak rainfall levels. This includes the northern escarpment areas such as the Murraysburg region.  Rainfall recorded in September in the Central Karoo ranged between 0 mm and 2 mm.
  • The Central Karoo, the West Coast region and parts of the Cape Winelands are still experiencing drought conditions. Although isolated rains were experienced in these areas, they remain dry due to below average outcomes being achieved overall. It is expected that there will be challenges with grazing for animals during the summer months. 
  • During October sporadic incidents of frost damage to the fruit industry occurred in the Touwsriver area (severe damage to plums), Robertson (lighter damage to grapes), and Vleiland area (damage to stone fruit).  Severe damages to vineyards in the Rawsonville area occurred in mid-October due to black frost.
  • Below normal winter rains and snow resulted in the current low dam levels in the Central and Klein Karoo, resulting in restricted, and in some cases, no water availability for irrigation. 

Dam levels:

  • Currently the average dam level of all the major dams in the province is at 61% vs 90% at this time last year.
  • Theewaterskloof Dam, which is the biggest dam in the province providing water to Cape Town and irrigation, is on 52% vs 76% last year.

Water restrictions:

  • Current water restrictions applicable to irrigation water vary from 30% (Berg River system) to 43% in the Olifants River system (Clanwilliam/Vredendal).
  • On average, on-farm storage dams are at 50% or less.
  • This implies that farmers already have a 50%+ restriction from their own water resources added to the 30% to 43% restriction from the large government-managed dams.
  • In many areas, vital after-harvest irrigation could not be applied in March to May 2016, due to a shortage of irrigation water. This will impact on the production outcomes of vineyards and orchards in the current season.

Winter grain:

  • Although average to below average rainfall occurred in the Swartland region, this rain occurred timeously in terms of the crop water demand and an average grain yield is expected in most areas.
  • The Southern Cape and Overberg experienced normal rain and weather conditions resulting in average grain yields.

Minister Winde concluded: “The Western Cape remains water stressed, and we all need to play our part by not wasting this vital resource. The Agriculture Department is also on hand to advise the sector on how to adopt conservation agriculture.

"We mustn’t bury our heads in the sand like ostriches over the looming water crisis. If we do, future generations will bear the brunt of our foolishness.”

For media queries, kindly contact:

Bronwynne Jooste
Spokesperson: Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities
Responsible for Tourism, Economic Development and Agriculture
Western Cape Government

Tel: 021 483 3550
Cell: 060 970 4301
Twitter: bronwynnejooste