Economic development

Load shedding could become food shedding

The threat to South Africa’s food security, particularly due to the impact of repeated power cuts, has been spelled out in chilling detail by Christo van de Rheede, chief executive of Agri SA.

In an article in the Daily Maverick, he said the agricultural sector had suffered disproportionately from the impact of the power outages, known as load shedding. This reduced its ability to feed the nation, and the full impact on food security was yet to come.

“While food security is often discussed in relation to the blackouts, the extent and severity of the challenge and its likely impact on the country are not always fully understood. Load shedding of electricity could well become load shedding of food for many people if more urgent interventions are not taken,” he said.

“Food is life. South Africa needs to prioritise its ability to produce food locally, being mindful that many South Africans are already food-insecure.

“The success or failure of the sector not only impacts the 860,000 jobs (and therefore households) it supports, but also every single household in the country and their ability to source and buy food.”

Food could be imported, but this would be at increasing cost due to the depreciation of the rand, reducing access to food even for the more financially secure households.

Farmers were being hammered by the rolling blackouts and the rising cost of diesel-powered generation.

“Without power or money for diesel, these farmers cannot irrigate crops, livestock husbandry is impossible, and crops that have made it, despite the challenges, are not getting harvested.

“The full impact of rolling blackouts over the past few months on food security is still to come, with many staples in the shops currently still being drawn from previous harvests. In short, tougher times for food security are coming.”

Van der Rheede appealed to the government not to pass the Expropriation Bill, currently before parliament. The legislation would severely undermine the ability of farmers to raise loans against their property.

“It is unthinkable that the government will pass legislation that will essentially undermine the farming community’s last financial avenue to respond to rolling blackouts during an energy crisis of the state’s making,” he said.