Aerial view of farms in the Western Cape. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Aerial view of farms in the Western Cape. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

#LoadShedding having 'huge effect on farming'

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Feb 18, 2019

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Cape Town - Agri SA said that it was concerned about the negative impact that ongoing load shedding might have on the agriculture sector.

“Load shedding will have an impact on irrigation-reliant and energy-intensive industries like the horticulture, dairy, poultry, grains and agro-processing industry,” said Nicol Jansen, chairperson of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Economics and Trade.

Jansen said Agri SA had a meeting with Eskom in January to discuss possible avenues to mitigate the negative impact of load shedding on agriculture. Within the context of food security, Agri SA requested Eskom to at least exclude agriculture from stage 1 load shedding.

However, Eskom indicated that this would not be possible since agriculture is not serviced by a dedicated agriculture network and that other stakeholders are similarly affected by load shedding.

“The negative impact affects producers as well as the end consumer, as these sub-sectors play a vital role towards ensuring South Africa's food security. Over 25% of the country's food is produced by irrigation-reliant and energy-intensive industries.”

But Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB, said the immediate impact would be on the input costs and maintaining operations for farmers. “This will have a negative impact on producers, your emerging farmers, your dairy farmers and also farmers who have to maintain the shelf life of products. So it has a whole chain reaction.”

Makube said that if load shedding was sustained and there was no security of electricity supply in the long term, it would become more costly to produce food and thus increase prices that consumers would have to pay.

“You still have issues where some areas in the Free State and Western Cape are dry and they are slowly recovering from the drought.

"Farmers have also suffered huge financial losses during the drought in the past three years. All of this means that this will increase the pressure on the margins of producers.”

Electricity is an important input cost for many farmers, especially farmers that depend on irrigation.

The agricultural sector spent approximately R146 billion on intermediate goods and services in 2017/2018, of which electricity amounted to R7 billion (5%).


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Cape Argus

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