Deciduous fruit industry reeling under flood disaster

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The South African deciduous fruit industry is reeling under the impact of the recent floods in key production areas, particularly in Elgin, Grabouw, Vyeboom and Villiersdorp (EGVV), parts of the Klein Karoo and Franschhoek. During crisis talks with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDoA), it was estimated that the impact of damage to producers as well as infrastructure could be between R400 to R500 million in the EGVV area alone.

The deciduous fruit industry is the largest agricultural commodity grown in the region. The WCDoA launched a mobile phone application to connect with producers who had suffered damage. Preliminary data collected in this regard, from 26 producers in the Grabouw region, indicated that flood damage amounted to a total of R160 million. This does not include Elgin, Villiersdorp and Vyeboom. Infrastructure damage was reported on power grids, orchards, net structures, buildings, machinery, irrigation systems and equipment, irrigation canals as well as roads and bridges that were washed away.

Extensive damage

The wind and rain experienced caused further damage. Numerous farm roads and bridges were completely washed away. Hortgro’s executive director, Anton Rabe, says that topsoil and many orchards have been lost. “The production season in the EGVV is now starting in earnest. Spray programmes, pollination and critical inputs such as diesel, have been severely disrupted.” It is crucial to repair critical access roads and bridges to such an extent that producers can get their workers onto the farms and that stone fruit producers, who start harvesting in a few weeks, can get their fruit to the markets.

“There are also numerous packhouses in the EGVV full of pome fruit destined for the export market, which we need to get to the port,” Rabe said. The repair and replacement of irrigation canals, water pipes and pumps are critical to save the production season. Electricity and cell phone reception have not yet been fully restored, further complicating logistics and aid attempts.

Glaudi Skog, the EGVV agriculture representative, said the humanitarian need in the region is significant with communities needing food and drinking water. Hortgro has already donated R250 000 to the Gift of the Givers Foundation. This disaster response non-governmental foundation will distribute food parcels and other emergency items to the respective regions. An appeal is made to the public to donate to Gift of the Givers to assist the people of the EGVV and other flood disaster areas. – Press release, Hortgro

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