Agriculture is one of the many South African industries affected by the daily electricity blackouts caused by supply problems at the country’s electricity utility, Eskom.
The rolling power cuts, known locally as loadshedding, have escalated recently, prompting farmers to seek an urgent meeting with Eskom management. In a statement reported by Engineering News, the organisation Agri SA says continued power outages could threaten food security because of food shortages and high prices.
Agri SA says it takes up to an hour to resume irrigation systems when load-shedding ends, costing farmers time and additional labour costs. Power outages also disrupt cooling and packing operations, which has ramifications for food quality and wastewater treatment operations.
A disruption in cold chain protocols is particularly dire for exports, since export markets have strict requirements, and diminishes South Africa’s standing as a reliable food source market.
The greatest threat of loadshedding, Agri SA points out, is to the country’s food security. As crops fail for lack of irrigation or farmers plant less for fear of losses, South Africa will experience food shortages and high prices.
“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,” Agri SA concludes.