Hailstorms wreak havoc in Eastern Cape farms

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Farms in the Langkloof in the Eastern Cape will suffer losses of millions of rands as they have been hit by severe hailstorms in the past month.

This is the biggest hail storm that has hit this area in nearly three decades.

The much smaller harvest will result in little to no export of fruit, and the juicing of a large percentage of fruits.

The main harvest of apples and pears will be substantially lower after the storms. The bigger farms in the Langkloof area have put up nets over certain trees, to protect them from hailstorms.

The smaller farmers, however, cannot afford this.

Riaan Strydom, owner of Rugby Brand Farms, says, “We’ve got two storms this previous three weeks. The first one we got about 40-50% damage and the second one came and wiped the whole crop away. We will try to send 20 to 30% to the local market. Africa and the rest are going to have to go to the juice factory.”

A big farm like Tulpieskraal roughly employs about 250 workers. After the devastation, however, there isn’t much work left, as there isn’t much to harvest and pack.

Bokkie Kritzinger, owner Tulpieskraal Farms, says, “With the hail of 14 February, we lost nearly 66% of our crop. Most of the crop is now going to the juice factories. The seasonal workers are going to finish their jobs May 1st. We don’t know because we won’t have work for them further.”

These small towns in the Langkloof don’t provide many jobs. The cuts can lead to amplified socio-economic issues.

“It’s the first time this February that this pack shed is not working. The people are outside because the hail was too heavy for us. And it can’t be like this. We’ve got 70 people in the pack shed. But now the pack shed is just standing because of the hail,” says a worker.

“The hail didn’t only affect the farmers it affects us as workers also because it could’ve maybe been so bad that we can be without work. At the end of the day, then the young people turn to stealing, which ultimately means they are going to jail,” adds another worker.

The drought has not affected this area severely although water does not run down from the mountains anymore.

Farmers have sufficient water to continue as normal.