The City of Cape Town said it had been engaging with nursery businesses to assist them with the diversification of their business models.
The drought is causing job losses in the nursery industry as plant sales decline sharply.
Thus far, 17 staff members have been retrenched at Stodels nurseries across the Western Cape and positions have been frozen at the nursery, and others who have taken a big knock due to restrictions brought on by the drought.
“Our main concern is the uncertainty of the situation. Between our five garden centres, 17 staff in total were retrenched, although over the last two years our staff structure has dropped by 90 staff in total, as a result of the drought.
“The nursery industry is scrambling to change the products on offer to gardeners,” said Stodels managing director Nick Stodel.
“The main challenge is that there is a perception among many people that you can’t garden without water and for that reason people who want beautiful gardens are waiting to see what will happen to the water situation. In some areas, gardening is seen as a taboo even if very little or no water is used.”
Hart Nursery owner Adrian Engelbrecht agreed with Stodel and said he fears selling plants in public, as he feels as though he may be attacked. He was struggling to make a living and only managed to make R175 in a period of two weeks.
“I sit with a problem where I have to change what I’m doing. What am I going to do? I have a bond and expenses. The City has not worked with us to tell us what they’re doing.”
Cape Garden centre has managed to stay strong throughout the drought by shifting their focus from selling plants to pushing sales of their water-saving products, such as rainwater tanks and borehole creation. “We find different ways to keep the business running. Plantwise business is quieter, but we focus on boreholes, water tanks and other methods,” said Cape Garden centre general manager Stanton Schneigansz.
Xanthea Limberg, the City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said for some years the City had been engaging with nursery businesses to assist them with the diversification of their business models.