S. African cane farmers hit hard by floods

JOHANNESBURG, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Cane farmers in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal Province have lost infrastructure and crops worth 222.9 million rand (14.9 million US dollars) as a result of the recent rains, said SA Canegrowers on Wednesday.

(Photo: agencies)

SA Canegrowers said over 300 farmers experienced extensive crop and root damage to 2,516.65 hectares of cane, therefore requiring total replanting of these fields to bring them back into production.

"This damage comes to an estimated R194.9 million. Farm infrastructure to the value of R27.9 million has also been destroyed, bringing the total losses to R222.9 million," said SA Canegrowers CEO Thomas Funke.

"A number of local roads and bridges were also washed away, which are not only the main transport nodes to mills but also the access routes for farm inputs and workers employed on these farms," he added.

Funke said they have sent the preliminary cost of damage to the government, requesting "urgent financial and infrastructure relief".

"This catastrophic damage comes just as many cane growers had started recovering from the riots and arson attacks that took place in July last year, which saw 554,000 tons of cane being burnt and R84 million in losses. It is clear that this latest tragedy could be the final death knell for hundreds of cane growers and the rural livelihoods they support. In particular, small-scale growers are most at risk of not recovering from losses of this magnitude," he said.

According to Funke, SA Canegrowers support over one million livelihoods in rural communities.

South Africa experienced floods last week. KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said on Wednesday that 448 people are reported to have passed away from the disaster "described as unprecedented and the worst in living memory". Some people are still missing and others are being accommodated in temporary shelters.