Drought a threat to Western Cape growth

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille says the severe drought and fires are a threat to growth in the province.

“The drought has had a significant impact on agriculture, which is a central pillar of our provincial economy. Our early estimate is that there will be a 10% reduction in agricultural production. Food inflation is also likely to strain residents in many Western Cape towns,” said the Premier.

Premier Zille, tabling the State of the Province Address on Thursday, said the province was seeking R88 million from national government contingencies for drought-relief, in addition to contributing its own resources.

She said emerging farmers will receive an emergency support package from provincial funds to help them to survive this difficult period. The package includes subsidies for farmworker wages, and R6500 a month for six months to ensure food security.

Farmers are also rallying to help each other. “We were privileged to be involved in the generous donation of 100 tonnes of feed to farms in need.”

She refuted the claim that the Western Cape had only spent 5% of flood relief funds provided by the national department. “That is not true. We have spent 99% of the amount, which will soon rise to 100%, on flood relief, and none found its way into any of our pockets.”

Fire season

This year’s fire season has been particularly bad, with scores of vineyards, citrus trees, rooibos tea, fynbos and timber plantations destroyed.

“We estimate that over 30 000 hectares were lost in the Citrusdal region, 16 000 hectares in the Ceres region, 8000 in Villiersdorp and surrounds, and 4000 hectares in the Overberg district.

“It will take time for the industry to recover from these losses,” said Premier Zille.

It is thanks to the Disaster Management programme that thousands of hectares have been saved from destruction.

“In 2012 we decided on a Rapid Attack programme to fight wildfires. Back then there were just 8 fire-fighting aircraft servicing the entire province. Today there are 26 aircraft operating across 31 runways.

“Over the last 4 years, 97% of fires have been brought under control within the first hour of being reported. That is an extraordinary statistic,” she said.

The Premier thanked all the firefighters, professionals from all five district municipalities, local municipalities and City of Cape Town, the staff from Cape Nature, SANPARKS and the Working-on-Fire Program.

She further acknowledged the efforts of members of the Fire Protection Associations, Volunteer Wildfire Services and private contractor teams.

“Pilots from the South African Air Force and the private sector also contributed greatly, as did the South African Defence Force Joint Operations Centre, and the National Disaster Management Centre,” she said.

Premier Zilla said she was thankful there were no firefighter fatalities this fire season. - SAnews.gov.za

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