Disruptive load shedding poses long-term risks to the agricultural sector and the economy

The impact of the ongoing power cuts on the agricultural sector and the wider economy has serious implications for food security and social stability. The prolonged period of level 6 load shedding threatens the viability of the sector. An escalation to level 7 and above would be catastrophic and pose a risk to the country’s national security.

Load shedding contributes to inflation and can cause farmers to plant less due to rising costs and disrupted planting schedules. Load shedding is increasing the cost of production for farmers at a time when South Africans are facing further food price hikes and are under unprecedented economic pressure. This brings additional risks and uncertainties.

Electricity is at the heart of modern farming practices and the recent increase in load shedding has seriously disrupted farming operations. Pumping stations, irrigation, cooling and other systems all depend on electrical power. While some farmers can afford to get off the grid, most cannot. This is especially true for the most vulnerable small-scale farmers. Farmers lose their water quotas for irrigation purposes when the electricity goes out – an irrecoverable loss that cripples farms.

Farmers are already reporting huge losses as processing machines, irrigation equipment and other machinery are damaged and shut down due to power outages. With critical systems unavailable during the day, farm workers have to work after hours. These overtime hours increase production costs which are already rising.

Power outages also lead to waste and financial loss due to the impact on food storage. Retailers are beginning to reject fresh produce, mainly vegetables due to delivery delays and cold chain disruptions. In summer, this challenge increases exponentially. This will reduce the amount of food available and increase its cost to the consumer.

As the South African economy faces these and other challenges, Agri SA and its members are committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure food security in the country. However, this requires urgent action. We hope that the presidency will prioritize stability and security in all power stations. These factories being considered as national key points, Agri SA urgently requests that the sites of strategic importance be protected against sabotage. Violent actions and criminality are on the rise and constitute a trend that must be reversed in the national interest.

Agri SA supports Eskom’s decision to increase its renewable energy capacity in the near future. As requested by Eskom, additional wind and solar power generation capacity of 4,000 MW or 4 GW can help reduce load shedding incidents. The Department of Minerals and Energy has a key role to play in quickly putting in place the necessary policy infrastructure so that Eskom can increase its capacity. Failure to do so poses serious economic risks to South Africa, including social instability.

For more information:
Christo Van der Rheede
Agri S.A.
Tel: +27 83 380 3492

Lana T. Arthur