While water to growers in most parts of the Western Cape have been reduced further because of the drought, fruit growers in the Elgin apple and pear producing region have opened the sluices of their dams to assist the citizens of Cape Town in what is a gesture to help the city in its hour of need.
Elgin will donate between 7.5m and 10m cubic meters of water to the City of Cape Town.
“After careful consultation with fruit growers from the Groenland Water User Association (GWUA), a private water network, it was decided to make the one-time donation,” said Johan Groenewald, chief executive of the GWUA.
"We are in a different catchment area than the City of Cape Town, and although our rainfall has been much lower than what we are used to, farmers in the area realised that we are currently in a more favourable position than the City of Cape Town," he continued. "Thus, they decided to ‘pay-it forward’."
The water comes from private dams in the area. Ross Heyns, chairman of the EGVV Agricultural Association, said the donation could put farmers in a difficult position at the end of the current season. "We will be dependent on a good winter rainfall to replenish reserves for the next season."
According to Groenewald, producers in the region have been proactive with drought-planning and used water-wise irrigation techniques. "For example, producers apply better scheduling programmes and make sure all equipment is regularly checked for leaks," he explained. "We also regularly inform all water users about the water scarcity. There is a clear shift among water consumers and everyone realises water is a scarce natural resource."
Meanwhile, stonefruit and grape growers in other parts of the Cape are struggling to bring in their crop.
While table grapes are expected to stabilise after a previous drop in production, there are unofficial reports that the packout of stonefruit varieties are under pressure. This affects the mid-season varieties of Songold and Letiatia, which, apart from small sizes, are under pressure because of other defects.
“We have seen reports of drops of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in packout and we find it hard to forecast shipments accurately,” said one exporter.
The upside is that the market remains strong and growers are hoping that their returns will somehow make up for the losses.