Groot uitdagings vir vrugtebedryf – Drought challenges fruit industry – Hortgro

Groot uitdagings vir vrugtebedryf

Persverklaring: 19 Januarie 2018

Die knellende droogte in die Wes-Kaap plaas vrugteboere en landelike gemeenskappe onder geweldige ekonomieseen sosiaal-maatskaplike druk, meen die sagtevrugtebedryf-diensorganisasie, Hortgro. Hortgro is ook bekommerd oor die ongegronde en onverantwoordelike uitsprake deur politici en oningeligte sosiale media gebruikers oor watergebruik deur die landboubedryf. Landbou in die algemeen, en die vrugtebedryf in die besonder, het die afgelope jare groot vordering gemaak met die uiters doeltreffende aanwending van water deur die gebruik van nuwe tegnologie.

Hortgro se Bestuurder vir Handel en Markte, Jacques du Preez, het in ‘n verklaring gesê dat oesvooruitsigte nie rooskleurig is nie, met afnames in oesvolumes wat buitelandse uitvoere sowel as die plaaslike mark onder druk plaas. “Dit is beslis nie ‘n maklike seisoen nie en die jongste oesskattings vir mid- tot laat pruime, laat-nektariens, appels en pere dui op laer volumes as verlede jaar. Die syfers vertel egter nie die volle verhaal nie. Ons is te midde van ‘n droogtesiklus, so wanneer die volle potensiaal van die bedryf in aanmerking geneem word, is oesskattings in sommige gevalle tot 25% minder.”

Vroeë steenvrugte het wel gebaat by die sporadiese laat reënval in Oktober en November – gevolglik was heelwat produsente beter daaraantoe as wat aanvanklik verwag is. Hierdie voordeel is egter nou daarmee heen. Die werklike uitdaging wat waterbeskikbaarheid en vruggroei betref, word gedurende somer en herfs verwag, wanneer die grootste volumes vrugte oesgereedheid bereik.

Du Preez meen die ekonomieë en voortbestaan van die meeste landelike dorpe in die Wes-Kaap is afhanklik van die landboubedryf. Die afsny van water aan landbouers kan moontlik ‘n verwoestende sosiaal-maatskaplike uitwerking op die provinsie hê.

Hy wys daarop dat daar meer as 308 000 werkers en hul afhanklikes op plase in die vrugtebedryf is – sonder in agneming van al die ander werksgeleenthede in die waardeketting. Die grootste impak is op seisoenale werkers met ‘n beraamde 22 000 werksgeleenthede wat geraak word. Verskeie boere beoefen gemengde boerderye met ‘n permanente vrugtegewas asook eenjarige groentegewasse. Vanweë die beperking in water, het sulke produsente nie hierdie seisoen eenjarige gewasse aangeplant nie om eerder water vir die permanente gewasse te prioritiseer. Dit het
egter weer ‘n verdere impak op werkskepping asook op dié produsente se inkomste gehad. Werkloosheid lei tot verstedeliking, wat weer verdere druk op stedelike hulpbronne plaas, meen Du Preez. Hy sê ook dat dit die impak van die droogte dramaties tussen streke en selfs tussen aangrensende plase verskil wat dit moeilik maak om ‘n eenvormige prentjie van vrugtebedryf te skets. “Produsente wat die infrastruktuur en kapasiteit het, het tot ‘n groot mate goeie krisis-strategieë aangewend, maar sommige produsente – veral die wat afhanklik is
van nasionale waterskemas – is onder geweldige druk.”

Buiten die droogte is daar ook hierdie seisoen weergebeure soos hael, windstorms en erge sonbrand wat die vrugtebedryf verder knel. Onder erge droogtestres is bome se blominisiasie (wat vir die volgende seisoen reeds in die huidige seisoen moet plaasvind) swakker en is die blomme ook van ‘n swakker kwaliteit met min selle en ʼn kort leeftyd. ʼn Droogte het dus ʼn aansienlike oordrag-effek wat produksie in volgende seisoene ook onder druk kan plaas. Vrugteboorde is ‘n hoë koste belegging. Dit duur tot 5 jaar vir ‘n boord om in produksie te kom. Indien bome ‘n droogtesiklus oorleef, duur dit soms jare vir bome om heeltemal te herstel.

Wes-Kaapse vrugteprodusente is dekades lank reeds bewus van die water as ‘n skaars hulpbron en wend noukeurige en innoverende produksiestrategieë aan om water so optimaal as moontlik te gebruik. So byvoorbeeld is vrugteboere van die ywerigste gebruikers van die FruitLook tegnologie wat deur die Wes-Kaap Departement van Landbou beskikbaar gestel word. Met dié tegnologie wat satellietdata genereer, kan landbouers presies vasstel waar besproeiing nodig is.

Die impak van die droogte is nie net finansieël nie, maar ook psigies, daarom dat ongegronde politiekery onverantwoordelik is, sê Du Preez. Wetgewing maak nie daarvoor voorsiening dat vrugteprodusente van die regering droogtehulp kan kry nie. Die Land Bank staan wel lenings toe, maar die administrasie en aansoekproses is kompleks en tydrowend. Daar is wel belanggegroepe wat saamwerk om humanitêre hulp in sekere streke te verleen. Droogtestrategieë wat vrugteprodusente aanwend, is:

  •  Die uitkap van ouer boorde. Om ʼn appelboord te vervang kos maklik R250,000 per hektaar en indien nette bygereken word, kan die syfer maklik tot naby R500,000 beloop. Boorde wat uitgehaal word om water te probeer spaar, het dus ʼn groot impak op boerderyondernemings.
  • Die gebruik van nette. Teen R250,000 per ha, is dit nie ‘n opsie wat vinnig oor ‘n groot area toegepas kan word nie. Navorsing wys dat waterbesparings van tot 25% egter verkry kan word.
  • Drupbesproeiing wat verdamping verminder kan water spaar, maar nie alle gronde is geskik nie en ouer boorde se verspreide wortelstelsels mag aanvanklik sukkel om aan te pas by die beperkte area van benatting. Dit kan die oes negatief affekteer.
  • Vrugte word van die bome verwyder.
  • Vrugteboere hersien weekliks hulle watergebruik en pas strategieë dienooreenkomstig aan. Hoë inkomste boorde kry meer water as gemiddelde boorde en swakker boorde word uitgehaal. Indien strenger waterbeperkings ingestel word of minder water beskikbaar is, kry van die beter boorde ook minder water.
  • Die gebruik van vogmeters en skedulering van besproeiing op grond van streng parameters.
  • Die gebruik van FruitLook (http://www.fruitlook.co.za/) om oorbesproeiing te identifiseer.
  • Grawe van profielgate in boorde om worteldiepte te bepaal en dan besproeiing daarvolgens aanpas.

Hortgro het reeds in Augustus (Wes-Kaap) en September (Oos-Kaap) droogte seminare aangebied waar moontlikhede om water te bespaar onder produsente se aandag gebring is. Omtrent 400 produsente het die seminare bygewoon.

Vir meer inligting kontak Jacques: jacques@hortgro.co.za
Besoek: www.hortgro.co.za en volg ons op Facebook en Twitter.
Press release January 2018


Drought challenges fruit industry

Western Cape fruit farmers and rural communities are under tremendous socio-economic pressure due to the crippling drought, according to the deciduous fruit industry organisation, Hortgro. Hortgro is concerned about the unfounded and irresponsible statements made by politicians and uninformed social media users about agriculture and water-use. Agriculture in general, specifically the fruit industry, has made great progress with the efficient use of water-saving technologies.

Hortgro’s Trade and Markets Manager, Jacques du Preez, said in a statement that the current season is a real challenge. “Harvest prospects are not rosy, showing several decreases in crop volumes that will put the export and local market under pressure. The latest crop estimates for mid to late plums, late nectarines, apples and pears are lower than last year. The figures do not tell the full story. We are in the midst of a drought cycle, so when the full potential of the industry is taken into account, harvest estimates are in some cases down by 25%.” Early stone fruit has benefited from the sporadic rainfall in October and November therefore many producers were slightly better off than what was initially expected. This advantage is now a thing of the past. The real challenge of water availability and fruit growth is expected during the summer and autumn period, when the largest volumes of fruit
are ready for harvesting.

According to Du Preez most of the Western Cape’s rural areas depend economically on the agricultural industry. The cutting off of the water supply to farmers may have a devastating socio-economic impact on the province. He points out that there are more than 308 000 workers and their dependents on farms in the fruit industry – without taking into account all the other employment opportunities throughout the value chain. The biggest impact is on seasonal workers with an estimated 22 000 jobs that are affected. Several farmers practice ‘mixed farming’. They grow a permanent fruit crop as well as annual vegetable crops. Due to water limitation these producers have not planted annual crops this season, opting to save water for their permanent crops which had further implications for job creation and also affected producers’ income. Unemployment leads to urbanization, which puts further pressure on urban resources, says Du Preez.

The impact of the drought differs dramatically between regions and even between neighbouring farms. It is difficult to sketch a uniform picture of the fruit industry. “Some producers had the infrastructure and capacity to apply good drought strategies, but others – especially those dependent on national water schemes – are under enormous pressure.”

Apart from the drought other extreme weather like hail, windstorms and severe sunburn has further pounded the fruit industry this season. Under severe drought stress, the flowering of trees (which for the coming season is already happening in the current season) is weaker and the flowers are also of poor quality with few cells and a short lifespan.
A drought thus has a significant transfer effect that can put pressure on future production seasons. Fruit orchards are a high cost investment. It takes up to 5 years for an orchard to come into production. If trees survive a drought cycle, it takes years for trees to recover completely.

Western Cape fruit producers have been aware of water as a scarce resource for decades and have applied innovative production strategies to use water responsibly. For example, fruit farmers are the most diligent users of the FruitLook technology made available by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. By using FruitLook and accessing satellite data farmers can pinpoint exactly when trees need irrigation. The impact of the drought is not only financial, but also psychological – making the unfounded comments made in the
media irresponsible, says Du Preez. Government legislation does not provide drought aid to fruit producers. The Land Bank does allow loans, but the administration and application process is complex and time consuming. There are interest groups working together to provide humanitarian aid in certain regions. Fruit production drought strategies are:

  • The removal of older orchards. Replacing an apple orchard costs R250,000 a hectare and if it’s under nets the
    figure can easily reach R500,000 a hectare. Orchards that are removed to try and save water have a big
    financial impact on farming entities.
  • The use of nets. At R250,000 per ha, this is not an option that can quickly be applied across a large area.
    Research shows that water savings of up to 25% can be obtained.
  • Drip irrigation that reduces evaporation can save water, but not all soils are suitable and older orchards’
    distributed root systems may initially struggle to adapt to the restricted area of wetting. This can affect the crop
    negatively.
  • Fruit is removed from the trees.
  • Fruit farmers review their water usage weekly and adjust strategies accordingly. High income orchards get
    more water than average orchards and poorer orchards are removed. If stricter water restrictions are applied
    or less water is available, the better orchards also get less water.
  • The use of moisture meters and irrigation scheduling based on strict parameters.
  • The use of FruitLook (http://www.fruitlook.co.za/) to identify over-irrigation.
  • Digging profile holes in orchards to determine root depth and then adjust irrigation accordingly.

Hortgro presented drought seminars in August (Western Cape) and September (Eastern Cape) where strategies for saving water were discussed with producers. Approximately 400 producers attended the seminars.
For more information contact Jacques: jacques@hortgro.co.za
Visit: www.hortgro.co.za and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.