SOUTH AFRICA – The extreme and persistent drought has led to national agricultural production declining by more than 42%, an analysis by the Western Cape provincial government has revealed.

Western Cape economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde said on Wednesday that his economic planning unit had completed an early assessment of the effect of the drought. “This drop in production resulted in a 1.1% decrease in the country’s gross domestic production,” he said.

Mr Winde said the detailed report would be tabled at the ministers and members of executive council meeting in Gauteng on Friday.

SA is facing its worst drought since 1992. Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said last week the estimated amount of maize SA would need to import this year had risen to between 5-million tonnes and 6-million tonnes, up from an earlier estimate of 4-million.

Mr Winde said the drought could cost SA more than R2bn in trade losses.

“The affected towns (in the Western Cape) and the surrounding areas are under huge pressure. We will be tabling a comprehensive report on Friday at the (meeting).

Dealing with the impact of the drought is my foremost priority. That is why in December, I approved an emergency support package for emerging farmers in our hardest-hit areas.”

Colin Deiner, head of the Western Cape disaster management centre, said the centre was continuously monitoring the drought in the province and holding integrated meetings with all relevant stakeholders including the national disaster management centre and relevant national departments.

“The main areas of concern remain the three municipal areas of Witzenberg, Prins Albert and Oudtshoorn. The West Coast and Central Karoo districts also remain of some concern at present.”

Last year the Western Cape provincial cabinet asked the national government to declare the province a drought disaster area.

But Western Cape local government department spokesman James-Brent Styan said: “Following an assessment by national (disaster management), it was decided it wasn’t necessary at the moment to do a provincial disaster classification… The situation is permanently monitored and may change when and if needed.”

Last week, the disaster centre declared the Witzenberg, Prins Albert and Oudtshoorn municipalities local disaster areas.

January 22, 2016;