Free State farmers say they are concerned about the high electricity tariff hike set to take effect in April. The farmers say they’re already paying exorbitant amounts for electricity. They say that they have also invested heavily in alternative energy sources to deal with the continuous load shedding.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) has announced an 18.65 % increase for the 2023/24 financial year.

Anxiety around the impending electricity tariff hike is impacting Free State farmers. Keketso Mokhothu, an agro-processing farmer is already digging deeper into her pockets for electricity. She spends about R800 a week.

However, the 250 units that she receives to process her products are not enough.

The 34-year-old is anxious about whether she’ll be able to continue with productivity.

“Truly speaking I don’t think I will survive but I’ll try my best, to survive, cause I’m starting to switch off other fridges when the electricity is back and then there are other procedures that I do when the electricity is up, when it comes back, so that means there’s a movement of production, of products from one fridge to the other,” says Mokhothu.

Mokhothu has begun changing her working routine to accommodate the fluctuating load shedding schedules. She’s not hopeful for the future.

“I feel bad because it is a big challenge for my business because now that I’ve just opened a kiosk, so I think that the daily production is something that it’s not going to happen, so it will really affect my business, so much,” says Mokhothu.

Free State Agriculture says the critical effect of load shedding is mostly felt by irrigation farmers. The organisation’s Commercial Manager, Dr Jack Armour, reveals the affected farmers don’t get enough power in a day to provide crops with sufficient water.

“The knock effects of not having enough energy to irrigate the current crops that are in the land can be huge and have a huge impact on food security and on the financial viability of irrigation farming, in these irrigation areas,” says Armour.

The farming organisation says farming is starting to become unprofitable, threatening food security.

“The diesel generator for example cost ten times more than Eskom to run, so that is exorbitant, it’s not profitable to plant a crop or to run an abattoir, to run cooling facilities with these generators, so Eskom is crucial to make food affordable for the people in South Africa,” Armour adds.

Come April when the electricity tariff hike takes effect, farmers as well as consumers will be forced to re-evaluate their spending to accommodate the new electricity prices.

 VIDEO: Free State farmers concerned about impending increase in electricity tariffs

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