While there seems to be light at the end of the load shedding tunnel with Eskom reporting an improvement in performance at its plants, the cost to the economy is being calculated.
Farmers reliant on electricity for parts of the business said the load shedding had a devastating impact on farming activities.
Agri SA said rolling blackouts affect irrigation-reliant and energy-intensive agro-processing industries.
“For agriculture, load shedding will have an impact on irrigation-reliant and energy-intensive industries such as horticulture, dairy, poultry, grains and agro-processing.
“The negative impact affects producers as well as the end consumer as these sub-sectors play a vital role towards ensuring South Africa’s food security.
“Over 25% of the country’s food is produced by irrigation-reliant and energy-intensive industries,” said Dr Requier Wait, Head of Economics and Trade at Agri SA.
Wait said some farmers cannot afford generators as a back-up.
“Load shedding creates a disruption to economic activity (production), which is accompanied by opportunity costs in terms of both time and money.
“In addition to lost production or productive time, damage to equipment or delays can create further cost implications.
“Those who make alternative back-up arrangements, for example generators, incur additional capital and running costs,” he said.
Agri SA had a meeting with Eskom in January to discuss possible avenues to mitigate the negative impact of load shedding on agriculture.
With food security in mind, Agri SA requested Eskom to exclude agriculture from stage 1 load shedding.
However, Eskom indicated that this would not be possible since agriculture is not serviced by a dedicated agriculture network and that other stakeholders are similarly affected by load shedding.
Nosey Pieterse, president of the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry said this will have an impact on the finances of farmers and affect the livelihoods of farmworkers.
“The problem that we have picked up is farmworkers working in abattoirs, and working with abalone and fish – they are facing constraints because those mechanics have to constantly run and this will eat into the pockets of farmers,” Pieterse said.
He said the next few months with load-shedding look bleak. “It’s very challenging, mostly because farmers are still trying to recover from the drought and now they have to deal with this as well,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eskom said there has been some improvement in their plants’ performance with five units now operating.
“In addition, we have achieved healthy diesel and water reserves over this period. Imports from Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa have increased to 850MW, with the restoration of feed from one of two lines. The cyclone has caused significant damage.”