Agriculture minister shows support for the sector

Thoko Didiza, South Africa’s agriculture minister, is fighting for a better deal for South African farmers who have been hard hit by the daily power cuts the country is suffering.

She told a media conference that she was looking to secure both financial support for farmers installing their own backup electricity generation, as well as changes to the power cut schedules that would accommodate irrigation times.

Didiza said the electricity state of disaster that has been declared across the country contained emergency measures that would assist the agricultural sector.

The government was looking at blended finance mechanisms to support farmers who wanted to produce their own alternative energy, she said. It was also exploring interventions to adjust the timing of power cuts in areas of concentrated irrigation.

Farmers have complained that load shedding not only disrupts their operations, but can prevent them irrigating in low-fee periods, raising irrigation expenses and pushing costs up even further.

The government had discussed with Eskom, the country’s electricity utility, ways to protect the agricultural sector, she said.