As economists lower SA's GDP forecast for the year, the Western Cape agricultural sector, which was a significant contributor to the surprise plunge in second-quarter growth figures this week, is bracing itself for a possibly dire start to next year. "I expected it to be worse," said Carl Opperman, CEO of Agri Western Cape, about the sector and SA's GDP growth, which Stats SA published this week. The Western Cape has between 4,500 and 5,000 farmers, who farm wheat, deciduous fruit, wine, meat, wool, milk, vegetables, rooibos tea, honeybush and ostriches. "We expected this to be quite a devastating year," Opperman said. Severe drought conditions starting in 2015 brought water restrictions. Vegetable production was halted as water was prioritised for humans, animals and long-term crops. Grain farmers who have defaulted on debt were unable to secure finance for the planting season. On the west coast wine route up to Vredendal, some farmers did not have grapes to deliver to buyers due t...

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