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Climate change threatens South African farmers

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 12:41

Johannesburg: Climate change and erratic weather patterns are a major threat to South Africa`s farmers, a media report has said ahead of the UN climate change summit to be held in the country.
The UN Climate Change Conference will be held in Durban Nov 28-Dec 9.

The Business Day newspaper in Johannesburg said studies by universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town in South Africa`s Western Cape province have shown the negative effects of changing rain patterns on the country`s wine region.

As result, a group of 25 grape growers is facing the challenge by investing heavily in irrigation infrastructure to protect their businesses.

The studies convinced the farmers they had to augment their water requirements, or be ruined, Xinhua cited the newspaper as saying.

John and Oliver Parker, owners of a wine estate in Durbanville, partnered with 24 other farmers, with each investing a million rand (around $121,000) to install an irrigation scheme that draws recycled water from a water purification plant.

John Parker said his family has owned the farm for generations and there was no record of farms around there ever needing a supplementary source of water.

Ernst Janovsky, head of agribusiness at South Africa`s Absa banking group, said climate change will gradually hit farmers` pockets.

This will make it less attractive to run certain businesses, especially since their profit margins would be continually squeezed by input costs including tax, he said.

Ebbe Rabie, account manager for agriculture at South African group Aon, said farmers reliant on seasonal weather patterns were becoming increasingly unable to plan ahead due to the frequency of extreme events.

He said extreme weather incidents are showing greater frequency even in areas where they have not previously occurred, devastating farms unprepared to deal with such events.

"If the lack of knowledge around this issue continues, South Africa`s food prices could increase and the export produce sector could be at risk," Rabie said.

He added that with the number of farmers in South Africa falling significantly in recent years, the local economy cannot afford to lose more who are financially unprepared for natural disasters.


First Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 12:41
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