Drought, heat ruining farmers: Daily Dispatch

Cooperative saddled with R2.3m debt

DROUGHT, fires and heat in the North Eastern Cape have devastated farming communities.

The SA Weather Services has warned that the El-Niño effect causing extreme heat and drought is expected to continue into autumn.

SA Weather Service spokesman in Port Elizabeth, Garth Sampson, reported that the 42°C temperature in Mthatha on Tuesday beat the previous record of 40.8 measured in February, 1998.

“The veld is black,” said Geoff Southey, of Montegu farm 21km outside of Venterstad, yesterday.

“My cattle and sheep are just surviving. We’ve had incredible heat [and] no rain for five months. We have to get it soon!”

One cloud produced one lightning strike which set his neighbour’s farm alight last month.

“Yesterday [Tuesday] was the hottest day we have ever had. I measured 44.9°C. People are feeding lambs and ewes with lucerne pills [round food cubes].”

Farmer Franz Marx told Stern that in 2013 his farm only had 60% of its annual rain, in 2014 70% fell, but in 2015 they only had 50% of annual rainfall.

“Our farming fraternity has moved tons of food donated by farmers from Alexandria and Tsitsikamma and we subsidised the transport.”

Farmers told Agri East Cape president Dougie Stern they would endure. “They always say a boer maak ’n plan.”

DA Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip said 22 catastrophic veld fires were reported in the northern Eastern Cape since November destroying 40 000 hectares on 60 farms “in this (Joe Gqabi) district alone”.

Mlibo Qoboshiyane, MEC for rural development and agrarian reform, said farmers in Ugie and Maclear had urged government to bring more rain tanks and feed.

His department had delivered 150 tons of lucern, 75 tons of hay, 15 40kg blocks of mineral lick, 100 rainwater tanks with fitted livestock equipment, and 760 000 litres of water to 76 sites.

Experts at “reviving” boreholes and windmills were being sourced.

He said all the maize planted by local farmers, with the help of the department, would fail, including 440ha at Ugie’s uMnga flats.

“uMnga flats cooperative member, Sizwe Nxyene, told me that their cooperative faces losses of up to R2.3million, as they have to repay the loans they took for primary production,” said Qoboshiyane.

He said farmers in Joe Gqabi lost 355 cattle and 44 sheep “in this district alone”.

“We call on the people of the province to pray to God for heavy rainfall so that crops and livestock are saved.” — mikel@dispatch.co.za

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