Government failure to deal with load shedding could lead to higher food prices and shortages: Agri SA
- Feb 7, 2023 4:35 pm GMT
The agricultural organisation’s executive director,
He said load shedding had more than doubled between January and September last year compared to the same period in 2021. “As a result of this catastrophe, the agricultural sector lost more than R23 billion during the nine-month period under review. This loss could be exceeded in 2023, threatening the sustainability of the sector and the 800 000 jobs it provides.”
Given the magnitude of the threat,
“While load shedding cannot be fixed overnight, there are critical short-term measures that can be put in place to mitigate its impact on food security.
Last month, Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said that as the country started the new year, there was probably no issue more urgent than the worsening energy crisis for local agriculture and agribusinesses. He said that farmers who relied on irrigation had all expressed concerns that persistent load shedding negatively affected production. “In crucial field crops, roughly 20% of maize, 15% of soybean, 34% of sugar cane and nearly half of the wheat production are produced under irrigation. Fruits and vegetables also heavily rely on irrigation and thus face similar challenges. In red meat, poultry, piggery, wool, and dairy production, there are also concerns that load shedding beyond stage 2 makes operations and planning challenging, as these industries all require continuous power for their usual activities. Similarly, agribusinesses face similar challenges in various downstream processing activities, such as milling, bakeries, abattoirs, wine processing, packaging, and animal vaccine production. Exporting agribusinesses, especially those with products susceptible to delays, such as fruits, red meat, and wine, are also worried about the port activities, which fortunately haven't been primarily affected.”
There were also food security concerns as the effect of load shedding would probably show in the volumes of products to be harvested or produced later in the coming months because of the time lag in agricultural production stages. The other emerging concern was the impact on jobs if businesses were severely affected. There was also a real danger that some farmers could lose their crops, which would impact the farms' financial future and probably negatively impact agricultural financiers.
At the time, Agbiz acknowledged that total exemption of the sector from load shedding would be almost impossible as many food processing companies and farms were technically linked to other localities. “With Eskom's challenges likely to be with us for some time, reducing reliance on Eskom will probably be a strategic business survival consideration for many businesses, although costly. Investing in alternative power sources will need to be prioritised where financial resources permit. This alternative generation may not necessarily take a business ”off the grid“ but ensure the continuity of crucial business activities during the cycle of load shedding,” it said.
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