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‘Load reduction’ leaves farmers fuming at Eskom

Farmworkers in the fields in Philippi. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Farmworkers in the fields in Philippi. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 2, 2022

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This article first appeared in the 28 June 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.

Cape Town - Despite better-than-expected rains this month, farmers have been left fuming at Eskom’s load reduction and load-shedding strategies, which they say have had a negative impact on the country’s agricultural industry.

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Drickus Botha of the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TLU SA) said load reduction was applied when there are one or more parties on a specific line who have not paid their electricity bill.

“The electricity of the entire line is switched off and where we can work with load shedding according to a schedule and plan accordingly, the load reduction is not like that.”

He said with load reduction, there is no indication of when the electricity supply would be restored and this amounts to “collective punishment” as innocent parties suffer.

He said TLU SA had approached Eskom’s management at national level to talk about the load reduction, but had not received feedback.

Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer said the entire agriculture sector was deeply affected by load shedding.

He said unplanned load shedding had negatively affected the irrigation, irrigation scheduling, application of fertiliser, agro-processing and shipment.

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“More advanced warning of load shedding would make a difference to farmers and agribusinesses to adjust their business planning and operations accordingly.”

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Jacques Moolman said while the latest statistics show significantly higher Western Cape agricultural employment numbers in the first quarter of this year compared with last year, load shedding had the potential to reverse these gains.

He said this was particularly the case among smaller-scale enterprises less able to absorb the cost of disruption.

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“There is never a good time for power supply problems, but this latest wave of blackouts comes at a crucial time for the province’s agricultural sector, which has just recovered from Covid-19 disruptions.”

Moolman said the chamber would engage with all relevant stakeholders to lobby for energy policy changes that promote independent power production, in the hope of minimising future negative impacts of load shedding.

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