The Department of Water Affairs in the Western Cape will be suspending access to irrigation water from the Berg River for farmers in the nearby region. Irrigation access to the Berg River for producers in the Lower Berg River area was already cut off last week, ending 21 January 2018 as  river levels are too low for further irrigation. Giel van Deventer, manager of the Berg River Irrigation Board, serving the Upper Berg River region says: “From the beginning of the season we were expecting that access to the river for irrigation would last only until the end of January.”

Billy Bourbon-Leftley, chairman of the Berg River Irrigation Board adds that the drought has a snowball effect. “There’s the loss of employment on farms where fewer workers are required if volumes are smaller. It affects the manufacturers of cartons and other packaging material, and it affects the people in the logistics chain. Local businesses in agricultural towns are also feeling the pinch. It’s a much broader crisis than people realise.”

Agri Western Cape expects a 25% drop in this season’s stonefruit harvest, with a concomitant loss in foreign earnings for the country. Among other stakeholders in the agricultural sector there are expectations of a decrease of more than 25% in fruit exports from the Western Cape. – Fresh Plaza

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