Eskom power cuts hit agriculture

Cape Town - Eskom power cuts are preventing farmers from irrigating in order to meet crop demands and this will lead to significant reductions in yield, warned a Fin24 user on Sunday.

"The incompetence of the officials and staff at Eskom is now having major cost implications on our businesses," he wrote.

"As farmers supplying large quantities of food to feed this nation, power cuts and the inability to irrigate to meet crop demands, leads to significant reductions in yield."

On top of that his once profitable enterprise will now operate at a loss.

"The power crisis is going to lead to major job losses if it continues. We need to wake up soon if we are to save this country," he implored.

READ: Eskom: Hang in there for another year

Canning industry taking strain

Agriculture, one of the largest employers in especially rural areas with a large component of seasonal workers, is suffering from inadequate electricity supply and load shedding, according to Agri Western Cape.

The Western Cape canning fruit industry is especially taking strain.

Wiehan Victor, CEO of the Canning Fruit Producers Association, said fruit canning producers, who are currently in the process of canning apricots, have a window period of only three to four weeks per year to harvest and to supply jobs.

Approximately 2 000 tonnes of apricots are processed daily.

“December to April is a critical period when we can’t afford load shedding. Except for the enormous pressure on producers as price takers, the current electricity crisis is becoming a fight for survival for the year ahead,” said Victor.

A cold chain must be maintained when working with perishable products. The cold chain is currently under pressure and with more load shedding problems than in the past, the effect on towns like Ashton and Tulbagh is enormous.

The canning fruit industry is the largest employer in these towns.

The Langeberg and Ashton fruit canning factories employ approximately 6 000 people during the peak season. Some of these workers only work during these three weeks of the year.

"The current economic pressure on the community is getting worse. The quality of the fruit that is processed is also affected negatively because the cold chain isn’t maintained," said Victor.

"This has a negative effect on sustainability and profitability and has a ripple effect on the following year’s income that workers are dependent on."

ALSO READ: Matona: Eskom situation nothing to do with BEE

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