The South African wine grape harvest is slightly larger than last year following a dry season and consumers can look forward to exceptional wines from the 2017 vintage.
The wine industry body VinPro says the 2017 harvest, that is at 1 425 283 tonnes 1.4% larger than in 2016, was initially expected to be smaller. “A decrease was expected due to the second consecutive very dry, hot season. However, cooler nights throughout the growing season and the absence of significant heatwaves during harvest time buffered the effect of the drought to some extent,” says Francois Viljoen, manager of VinPro’s viticulture consultation service.
The Swartland and Paarl regions obtained much larger crops following sharp declines in 2016. Robertson’s production was close to the record harvest in 2016, while Olifants River and Breedekloof increased somewhat following small crops last year. Slightly smaller yields were noted in the Northern Cape, Stellenbosch and Worcester and a much smaller harvest in the Klein Karoo.
Although higher rainfall brought some relief in certain regions, it was still very much below average and the warmer weather conditions required producers to manage water usage very closely.
While the South African Weather Service has forecast more rain for other parts of the country this week, the Water and Sanitation Department says there’s still a long way to go before dam levels reach normal capacity.
Theewaterskloof Dam. Picture – Johnny Miller/Code for Africa
Last week’s records show that nationally, most dam levels increased by just over 2%. But in the Western Cape, levels continue to drop.
The department is expected to release data on dam levels across the country on Tuesday.
Spokesperson Sputnik Ratau says water restrictions remain in place.
“We will only be able to review water restrictions in place from May when we’ll know exactly what the last part of the rainy season has for us.”
Tougher water restrictions for Cape Town will likely come into effect from next week, which forms part of a plan to force residents to save water.
Under level 3B restrictions, the watering of gardens, parks, and other open spaces will only be allowed for an hour before 9am or after 6pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
From next week, officials will also conduct more door-to-door visits and issue fines to errant residents and inform locals on water saving tips.
The agricultural sector was considering the adoption of smart disaster aid after sections of the industry were brought to their knees by the prolonged drought, Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said on Monday. “By ‘smart’ we mean that we take small bites at it to help ourselves over the next few years,” Van Zyl said.
The plan would also include favourable financing repayment periods through state-backed development banks. Such discussions were ongoing, he said.
Another leg to the plan was to create a bail-out fund over the long term to combat future droughts as the commercial farming sector is not a direct beneficiary of the government’s disaster relief. Van Zyl cited the sector’s maturity and the willingness of banks to assist farmers as factors that could help the plan off the ground.
“We cannot have a year like we’ve had last year. We didn’t have the mechanisms to support the farmers through the period,” Van Zyl said.
Among the worst-hit was the sugar industry but it is expected to recover following high rainfall. Sectors that depend on maize and soya beans for stockfeed, such as the poultry and pork industries, saw margins shrink because of higher feed prices and greater imports, especially from Europe.
Most of the dam levels in the country are on the path to recovery with the exception of all the Cape provinces‚ which are still struggling‚ the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said on Monday.
Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the latest figures on dam levels were being finalised and would be released on Tuesday.
A sailboat is seen lying in a small pool of water at the Vaal Dam’s Lake Deneys Yacht Club in Deneysville, Free State on Sunday, August 21, 2016
Image by – Kevin Sutherland / The Times
“Over the past week… we have been on the upward trend. The only places that were struggling were the three Capes – Northern Cape‚ Eastern Cape and Western Cape. On the national average‚ we have been going up” he said.
Our national average is now almost 50%. This means‚ when you look at the national dam levels together‚ you will get that percentage of capacity. It was 49.3% on Monday last week.
“Obviously because the rains have fallen over the last couple of days and also looking at the fact that the Vaal Dam is receiving water from Katse Dam in Lesotho as well as Sterkfontein Dam from the Free State‚ that has created a change in the kind of figures.”
In August‚ the DWS issued a government gazette compelling municipalities to reduce consumption by 15%. Most municipalities have struggled to reach this target, and some have been forced to restrict water supply in certain areas at times to prevent their reservoirs from running dry.