- A dairy farm in KwaZulu-Natal was forced to dump a full day's worth of milk due to load shedding.
- Issues with low voltage ultimately cost the farm 11 800 litres of milk, but this was just part of a constant battle with load shedding that has driven up costs and is burning out farm equipment.
- Load shedding has had its effects across the entire agricultural value chain, and even closed outlets and hit menu availability at fast food restaurants in December.
- For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.
A dairy farm in KwaZulu-Natal was forced to dump a full day's worth of milk due to load shedding, and it says this is simply the latest blow from an erratic electricity supply that has already brought its production below budget.
Ross Stratford, a director at Stratford Farms in Mooi River, said on Monday that issues with low voltage ultimately cost the farm 11 800 litres of milk, a day's production, but this was just part of a constant battle with load shedding that has driven up costs and is burning out farm equipment.
"We are fighting this thing day and night; we feel like we are in a constant grind against Eskom," he said.
The farm reported low voltage to Eskom at the weekend, with a weak supply of electricity both preventing generators from properly kicking in, while also leading to fans and contactors burning out. While they had switched the system to manual in order to use the generator, much of the equipment wasn't working after blowing out, and they couldn't cool the tank fast enough to prevent the milk from spoiling.
Burnout of farm equipment was a constant problem, he said, and one of the farm's processors had a similar issue at the weekend and had to dump milk from multiple farms. Stratford added he was also currently dealing with low voltage at an irrigation pump that was close to burning out, and with the current heatwave, they couldn't replace evaporation fast enough to prevent crops from wilting.
"We can't grow enough grass to feed our cows," he said. "Our production this year is about 15% below budget ... that's about 2.5 million litres of milk," he said. The entire area was almost entirely dependent on farming he said, and prices would inevitably have to rise.
Stratford's wife, Tamsin, said a major problem was the extreme diesel costs farmers were having to take on to use generators. "As a family farm, we have got significant infrastructure, and have Ross and his father and his brother on the ground to work and solve things all day long. I don't know how smaller farmers are managing with rising costs of diesel and having to pretty much run your farm off your generator. I think it is a ticking time bomb from that perspective," she said.
Load shedding has had its effects across the entire agricultural value chain, and even closed outlets and hit menu availability at fast food restaurants in December. The poultry industry has warned that, due to load shedding, slaughtering has fallen behind schedule, and this could even result in shortages in the retail and wholesale market.
Last week, a farmer in the North West said he intended to put a claim of about R1.5 million to Eskom, also reporting insufficient voltage that ultimately shut down ventilation in a chicken house, killing tens of thousands of birds.
There have also been calls to declare farming an essential service, and warnings that disruptions to SA's food supply and soaring costs could lead to social unrest in coming months.