The prolonged drought in the Western Cape is set to reduce food production and could increase food prices nationally.
“We expect a significant reduction in food production,” says Carl Opperman, Chief Executive Officer of Agri Western Cape. Opperman says that the situation for farmers is devastating and could lead to a massive crisis.
“There is a possibility that food prices across the country may increase,” he says.
The Western Cape has just experienced its third consecutive wet season with significantly less rain than usual. According to Piotr Wolski, a hydrologist at the University of Cape Town, the exceptional nature of this lack of rainfall makes predicting future rainfall very problematic.
“This kind of thing happens maybe once every thousand years, so we cannot make predictions based on the extreme lack of rainfall over the past three years,” explains Wolski.
“Although it is difficult for us to say whether next year will bring more rain or not, in the long term I think it is safe to say that the climate will get hotter and drier, despite the wet periods that will occur.”
In its latest climate change report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted: “The southwestern regions of South Africa are projected to be at a high risk of severe droughts during the 21st century and beyond.”
Opperman notes that the current circumstances are the worst he has experienced during his time in agriculture and that it could affect the entire country and its economy.
“Our water resources are under enormous pressure and this will have an effect on everyone, not just certain sectors.” He encourages members of the public to save every drop of water possible.
The Theewaterskloof Dam, one of Cape Town’s main sources of useable water, is currently at 27.3% of capacity, with the total of all six major dams currently sitting at 38.5% of capacity. – Aidan Jones