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A North West poultry farmer says he is planning to put in a R1.5 million claim against Eskom after electricity disruptions at his farm killed an estimated 40 000 to 50 000 of his flock.
Herman du Preez, owner of the Frangipani Boerdery in Lichtenburg, told News24 on Thursday that it was difficult to know the exact death toll, as chickens were still dying. Problems began in mid-December when problems with a transformer prompted Eskom to connect the area to another line, he said, but there had been variations in the voltage that damaged equipment such as pumps and motors.
Problems came to a head on Monday night, when insufficient voltage resulted in the air conditioning at one of the farm's chicken houses to shut down, he said. The farm has about 550 000 chickens.
"I'm busy with my homework. I'm waiting for reports from my electrician," said Du Preez. Eskom technicians had visited the farm on Wednesday in order to turn up the voltage, said Du Preez, but he added that he was now concerned about a surge if Eskom ultimately restores the area's transformer.
"So that's the next disaster that's going to happen," he said.
The continuation of Stage 6 load shedding in 2023 has sparked fears that disruptions in the agricultural supply chain could push up already elevated food prices and even result in shortages.
The South African Poultry Association warned earlier in January that load shedding had exacerbated pressure on egg producers, and about 10%, or 200, small egg famers had already gone out of business. Chicken shortages have also forced a number of fast-food outlets to temporarily shut down outlets, or cut items from their menus.
SA's largest poultry producer, Astral Foods, put the direct cost of load shedding at its operations at R138 million in its 2022 year, and has battled for years with unreliable water and electricity at its facility in Standerton, Mpumalanga.