Agriculture, food, fibre, and beverage industries have all expressed concern about the threat to food security if rolling blackouts continue at such short notice. This critical concern was shared with Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development Thoko Didiza.
Minister Didiza met with representatives from these industries to assess the impact of ongoing blackouts on their business operations and plans. Her department has formed a task force to address the sector’s concerns.
The Red Meat Industry Services was part of the meeting with Minister Didiza and raised how the current lack of energy security is impacting the agricultural sector.
But says rolling blackouts are not the challenge going against them. According to the CEO of the Red Meat Industry Services, Dewald Olivier says one of the other problems is the manufacturing of vaccines for cattle.
“We are already in deficit or behind the curve with regards to the manufacturing of vaccines… some of these diseases can spread to humans.”
Olivier points out that the lack of electricity impacts on their ability to slaughter animals destined for consumer consumption. He says it’s a costly exercise that the industry can’t afford, and as it is, some small butcheries are beginning to close their doors.
He cautions that the agriculture sector’s contribution to the second and third-quarter gross domestic product will be impacted.
In response to these concerns, the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development says it will establish a small sector task team that will monitor the impact of load shedding in the sector and its ability to ensure food security.
Spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo says the possible development of alternative energy sources within the sector is being analysed. “The technical work of measuring the financial costs is underway and will help draft the sector strategy.
“The task team will also explore short, medium and load-term interventions to ease the burden of load shedding within the farming, food, fibre and beverages value chains,” Ngcobo explains.
Meanwhile, the sector has to continue food production now even with the looming increases in electricity tariffs and energy insecurity combined.
Earlier in the week, the national energy regulator NERSA granted the power utility an 18.65% electricity hike, which experts warn will impact both households and industries negatively.
‘Tariff increase to cripple sector’
Meanwhile, Agri Northern Cape chairperson Nicol Jansen has advised farmers to seek alternative power supply solutions following NERSA’s decision to grant Eskom an electricity tariff increase.
Jansen says the tariff increase will further cripple the agricultural sector, which is already struggling.
“This increase granted by NERSA is insane! Eskom’s efficiency in financial management has been compromised by criminality. Reports on reports are published by the media on corruption, mafia activities, and fruitless expenditures. These increases will only finance criminality if culprits are not brought to justice rapidly. the agricultural sector of the northern cape has to deal with the harsh realities of the free market economy, fighting to survive economically with insufficient electricity supply at an unaffordable cost.”
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