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Agri SA concerned by the negative impact of load shedding on agriculture

Agri SA acknowledges Eskom’s efforts to keep the lights on, but we are concerned by the potential negative impact that load shedding can have on the agricultural sector and the broader value chain.

Electricity is an important input cost for many farmers, especially farmers that depend on irrigation. The agricultural sector spent approximately R146 billion on intermediate goods and services in 2017/2018, of which electricity amounted to R7 billion (5%).

“Load shedding will have an impact on irrigation-reliant and energy-intensive industries like the horticulture, dairy, poultry, grains and agro-processing industry,” said Nicol Jansen, chairman of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Economics and Trade. “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.”

Agri SA had a meeting with Eskom on 22 January, to discuss possible avenues to mitigate the negative impact of load shedding on agriculture. Within the context of food security, Agri SA requested Eskom to at least 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.

Load shedding can affect irrigation activities (1) directly in terms of load shedding experienced by farmers who cannot utilize their electric pumps during their access window to water and/or (2) indirectly by the load shedding of key irrigation scheme pump stations. In the latter case, a farmer may have access to electricity, but the irrigation scheme pump stations may be affected by load shedding (or vice versa). To resolve this specific coordination problem, our provincial members will engage with the Eskom representatives in their respective provinces, to identify key irrigation scheme pump stations and how the load shedding of these key pump stations can be minimized.

Agri SA will continue to monitor the load shedding situation and actively engage with Eskom to minimize the potential negative impact on agriculture.

Nicol Jansen
Agri SA Chairman: Economics and Trade Centre of Excellence
(C) 082 948 2629

Dr Requier Wait
Agri SA Head: Economics and Trade Centre of Excellence
(C) 073 304 0932