March 1, 2018 / 10:27 AM / a year ago

Losses mount in South Africa's Western Cape's farm sector

Fields of harvested wheat are seen near Cape Town, South Africa, February 3, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa’s Western Cape province expects its agriculture sector to decline by around 20 percent, as a severe drought hits farmlands surrounding Cape Town as the city braces for “Day Zero”, when its taps are expected to run dry.

South Africa has declared a national disaster over the drought afflicted southern and western regions, including Cape Town, which means the government could spend more money and resources to deal with the crisis.

Alan Winde, the Western Cape’s minister of economic opportunities, said the province is now projecting losses of 5.9 billion rand ($495 million) from a previous estimate of 4.9 billion rand due to record wheat losses and a strong rand.

“If we compare the past quarter to same time period last year, we see the severe impact that this drought is beginning to have on jobs and livelihoods,” Winde said.

He said 30,000 jobs had been lost due to the drought.

As part of water restrictions in the province, the agriculture sector had to cut its water use by 60 percent, denting farm output, Winde said.

Among the worst hit crops and grains were wheat, which suffered record losses of almost half from 1.1 million tonnes harvested last year to 586,000 tonnes in 2018, representing a loss of around 2.4 billion rand to the grain sector.

Running water in the port city of 4 million has been affected by a wider pattern of climate change seen around the country. Cape Town, whose picturesque ocean front location is a major tourist draw, expects July 9 to be its “Day Zero”.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia

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