7TH FEBRUARY 2023
BY: MARLENY ARNOLDI
CREAMER MEDIA ONLINE WRITER
Industry body Agri SA has implored President Cyril Ramaphosa to address food security in his State of the Nation Address on February 9, given that the agricultural sector has lost more than R23-billion in the nine months ended September 30, 2021, as a result of loadshedding.
Agri SA has also submitted a letter to the National Disaster Management Centre that details the far-reaching implications of loadshedding for grains, livestock, poultry, fruit, vegetables, sugar and edible oils.
These industries are central to the ability of South Africa to feed its people, the organisation emphasises.
Executive director Christo van der Rheede believes the only way to guarantee food security in South Africa is for government to announce immediate action to relieve the crippling burden of loadshedding on farmers, failing which South Africans can expect crop failures, higher food prices, shortages of certain food products and job losses in the near future.
He adds that a declaration of a State of Disaster alone, as has been suggested by various other stakeholders, is not enough to avert this threat and suggests that targeted relief is needed instead.
Van der Rheede acknowledges that loadshedding cannot be fixed overnight; however, he says there are critical short-term measures that can mitigate its impact on food security, including declaring the agricultural sector and associated value chain an essential service, partially exempting the agricultural sector from loadshedding beyond Stage 4 and allowing for higher rebates on diesel and petrol used for electricity generation.
Agri SA also suggests that government amend the current tariff structure to reduce the cost of electricity for farmers during peak times and rapidly expand load curtailment to all agricultural areas which qualify in terms of the user mix.
Moreover, Agri SA says government and Eskom can consider trading loadshedding schedules using a feasibility study and a tiered approach – using red, orange and green to identify critical areas and times.
“Unless these measures are implemented, a catastrophe
looms for the agricultural sector and the country. Farming operations will be disrupted more as equipment is damaged owing to power failures, the cost of food production will increase as farmers are forced to irrigate at peak prices and labour costs will soar owing to irregular work hours based on loadshedding schedules,” Van der Rheede warns.
Simultaneously, meat producers will be unable to pump water for their cattle or to slaughter and process livestock and poultry.
Agroprocessing and retail will also suffer as packing and cooling operations continue to fail.