Activities in the Western Cape’s main fruit regions have been severely disrupted by recent floods, Hortgro has confirmed

The true damage and disruption from floods in South Africa’s Western Cape fruit regions is finally emerging, with industry organisation Hortgro saying it has been in crisis talks with the Western Cape government to assist growers and fruit communities in certain areas.

Heavy rain

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Initially, industry leaders downplayed the damage caused by the floods – partly also because it was difficult to get true assessments.

“The South African deciduous fruit industry is reeling under the impact of the recent floods in key production areas, particularly in Elgin, Grabouw, Vyeboom and Villiersdorp (EGVV), as well as parts of the Klein Karoo, and Franschhoek,” said Hortgro in a statement.

It is estimated that producer and infrastructural damage in the EGVV area alone amounts to between R400m-R500m. This region is one of South Africa’s major apple, pear and stonefruit growing regions.

Hortgro said that the Western Cape government had launched a mobile phone app to connect with producers who had suffered damage.

“Preliminary data collected in this regard, from 26 producers in the Grabouw region, indicated that flood damage amounted to a total of R160m,” the organisation outlined. ”This does not include Elgin, Villiersdorp and Vyeboom.

“Infrastructure damage was reported to power grids, orchards, net structures, buildings, machinery, irrigation systems and equipment, irrigation canals; as well as roads and bridges that were washed away.”

As if the floods over the long weekend at the end of September were not enough, wind and rain experienced over the last week caused further damage. “Numerous farm roads and bridges were completely washed away,” Hortgro confirmed.

The organisation’s executive director, Anton Rabe, said that topsoil and many orchards had been lost.

The production season in the EGVV was now starting in earnest, and spray programmes, pollination and supply of critical inputs such as diesel, had been severely disrupted.

“Of great importance is to repair critical access roads and bridges to such an extent that producers can get their workers onto the farms and that stonefruit producers, who start harvesting in a few weeks, can get their fruit to the markets” Rabe explained.

“There are also numerous packhouses in the EGVV full of pome fruit destined for the export market, which we need to get to the port.”

“The repair and replacement of irrigation canals, water pipes and pumps are critical to save the production season,” he added. ”Electricity and cell phone reception have not yet been fully restored, further complicating logistics and aid attempts.”

EGVV spokesperson Glaudi Skog said the humanitarian need in the region was significant, with communities needing food and drinking water.

Hortgro has already donated R250,000 to the aid organisation, Gift of the Givers. Gift of the Givers will distribute food parcels and other emergency items in the respective regions. Hortgro also appealed to the public to contribute to the relief effort.