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As Newcastillians and their fellow South Africans are left frustrated with the constant onslaught of power outages, it seems that we now have to worry about loadshedding affecting our very food security.
Agri SA Executive Director, Christo van der Rheede has pointed out that Agri SA has written to Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter requesting an urgent engagement regarding the outlook for loadshedding in the coming weeks.
“With loadshedding escalating as South Africa enters the summer crop planting season, the current energy crisis may have implications for food security into the coming year unless farmers can put measures in place to mitigate against the effects of loadshedding,” he began.
Van der Rheede stressed that electricity is a key agricultural input.
“According to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) statistics, the agricultural sector spent approximately R9 billion on electricity in 2021. This is more than 7% of the sector’s expenditure on intermediate goods and services. A reliable power supply is especially critical for the sector’s irrigation and water treatment.”
Therefore, he emphasised that the consequences of loadshedding for the various agricultural commodities are far-reaching, with potentially devastating outcomes. Moreover, he noted that the impact of loadshedding extended beyond the blackout.
“It usually takes up to an hour to resume irrigation systems when loadshedding ends, costing farmers time and incurring additional labour costs. Blackouts also disrupt cooling and packing with ramifications for food quality, and they pose a health hazard for humans and animals alike as they disrupt access to clean water for consumption and stop wastewater treatment,” van der Rheede elaborated.
For export commodities, Agri SA’s Executive Director highlighted that the consequences included disruptions to cold chain protocols mandated by foreign markets and late shipments. These outcomes would diminish South Africa’s standing as a reliable market.
“Ultimately, the greatest threat of loadshedding is to the country’s food security. As crops fail for lack of irrigation or farmers plant less for fear of losses, the country will only experience the consequences of loadshedding in the future as the produce anticipated from this summer’s crop fails to materialise. The result will be food shortages and high prices,” explained van der Rheede.
He further added that Agri SA was aware of the recent announcement that Eskom would be approaching the market to procure 1000MW, but farmers needed to know what the plan was beyond this initial attempt to stabilise the grid, in order to plan for the season ahead.
“Given the magnitude of what’s at stake, Agri SA has approached Eskom for engagement in order to understand the current challenges and gain some insight into the outlook for the year so the sector can make plans to mitigate the risks, protecting both food consumers and producers. We trust that the power utility and government will work with us to avert a food certainty crisis in addition to the ongoing power crisis,” van der Rheede concluded.
With loadshedding casting an ominous shadow over South Africa’s food security, what are your thoughts on all of this?
Share your views in the comment section below.