load shedding effects on food security

It is getting more and more expensive for farmers to adjust and yet produce enough crops while loadshedding is maintained at high levels. A serious food security issue has been brought on by ongoing power shedding in Gauteng and across the country. Numerous businesses have been forced to close as a result of extended blackouts, and others have reported losing money.

Political parties view

The Democratic Alliance, an opposition party, has weighed in on this, saying that the current administration has to understand that Eskom’s situation involves more than just keeping the lights on; it also involves feeding the people of Gauteng. The party also said that South Africa’s cavalier government has been living in a different universe from the average South African and that the national government appears to be acting in an undemocratic manner.

A regular agricultural supply is necessary to support a population of almost 60 million people, according to DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Agriculture Brownwyn Engelbrecht, but the rolling blackouts have decreased farmers’ production. According to Engelbrecht, fresh products must be available for purchase, but the lack of energy has reduced their shelf life, reducing their availability and driving up their price.

Brownwyn Engelbrecht said “Poultry farmers are being destroyed as their chicks are being decimated, dying by the thousands. Without electricity, the conveyor belts cannot operate, providing essential feed and water, and without additional heat, the newly hatched chicks die. Moreover, the slaughter of chickens has been radically reduced due to the lack of cold room facilities for storage, packaging, and delivery of chicken meat.Food stored for large consumers, such as the iconic KFC, is facing crises as many stores have reportedly been forced to close due to a ‘chicken in bone’ shortage.”

The DA voiced concern that as it will raise our already high unemployment rate, it would have disastrous consequences. Due to the nation’s rising unemployment rate, civil unrest and violence are a real threat in South Africa. “We insist that the government and Eskom provide an adaptable load shedding schedule for farmers so that they can get sufficient time to produce food for the market,” the party said.

Agriculture Suffers

90% of South Africa’s electricity is provided by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., and over the past 15 years, it has prevented its grid from collapsing by limiting power when it couldn’t keep up with demand. Prior to last year, heavy industry and mining industries were the major targets of these planned blackouts, which are known locally as “load-shedding.”

The utility has been struggling with a leadership crisis, and as a result, its assets have gotten older, haven’t been maintained, or have even been vandalized. As a result, in 2022, outages reached record highs.According to Chris Hattingh, Head of Policy Analysis at the Centre for Risk Analysis, if outages continue at current rates, South Africa’s GDP growth this year will probably be limited to 1.5%.

The outages have affected crop irrigation, processing, and storage at every stage of the agricultural production cycle. To prevent products from deteriorating on the shelf, stores have also invested in expensive procedures. Shoprite Holdings Ltd. and Woolworths Holdings Ltd., two of the largest food stores in the nation, have expanded their investments in backup generators, rooftop solar panels, and refrigerated trailer vehicles.Smaller companies, though, haven’t had the chance to adjust. Local daily The Sowetan sent President Cyril Ramaphosa a cover story listing dozens of small businesses that were “crippled by every broken promise to mend Eskom.”

Farmers in the Northern Cape province, who are already suffering from intense heat waves that have seen temperatures in some places approach 117°F (47 °C), are among those who are impacted. They cannot water their crops, which include thirsty citrus trees, without power. “If you don’t have enough electricity, you don’t have enough water,” said Nicol Jansen, president of Agri Northern Cape, adding that cash crops such as soybeans are also vulnerable. We urgently need more electricity in the irrigation areas.”Former Johannesburg mayor and leader of political party ActionSA Herman Mashaba tweeted: “When we start paying R300 plus for a chicken, at least we will know why.”

Load shedding threatens the poultry industry

The chicken and chicken-egg industries are suffering greatly as a result of stage-6 load shedding, according to a warning from the SA Poultry Association. According to the group, the industry is suffering a financial crunch as a result of producers paying high prices for diesel for generators. When one of South Africa’s favorite fast food businesses, KFC South Africa, announced that some of its stores had to close due to load shedding late last year, the full scope of the energy problem became apparent.The severity of the energy problem became apparent late last year when KFC South Africa, one of South Africa’s favorite fast food chains, announced that several of its locations had to close due to load shedding. In December last year, KFC  tweeted: “We are sorry, but due to the ongoing load shedding, some of our restaurants will be temporarily closed, while others may have limited availability on some of your favourite menu items. We apologise for the inconvenience and will be back soon.”

The chicken restaurant assured the media that, with a few exceptions, normal business hours have since resumed. “KFC South Africa is dedicated to delivering on our customers’ expectations of Finger Lickin’ Good chicken every time they visit our restaurants. While load shedding had recently resulted in some minor disruptions to less than 7% of our restaurants, we are happy to confirm that we are back to normal operating hours, barring a few exceptions,” KFC told Business Report. The entire supply chain in agriculture has been impacted by load shedding.

Concerns exist that load shedding beyond stage 2 will be difficult for operations and planning in the poultry industry because these sectors depend on continuous power for their routine operations.As a result of the demands on the business, farmers not only risk losing cattle, but also entire crops, raising concerns about employment losses as well as the nation’s ability to feed its people.According to a tweet from the SA Poultry Association, approximately 10 million 10-day-old chicks had to be culled just last week because of the ongoing difficulties brought on by prolonged load shedding.

Minister intervention

The impact of load shedding on agriculture, agribusinesses, and the larger food, fiber, and beverage industries has drawn the deep attention of Thokozile Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development. Didiza met with representatives of the food, fiber, and beverage value chains and the farm sector last month to discuss the effects of load shedding on business activities and future plans for the industry. The leaders of the industry described the challenges encountered by companies, employees, and others. They also emphasized the danger to food security if load shedding persists on short notice without coordinated preparations to lessen the effects through predictability and backup plans.Reggie Ngcobo, a spokesperson for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, said that the development of alternate energy sources within the industry was also considered.

“The meeting resolved that the minister establish a small sector task team comprising government, industry participants, and energy specialists that will continuously monitor the impact of load shedding in the sector and its ability to provide safe and nutritious food to South Africans. 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 long term interventions to ease the burden of load shedding within the farming, food, fibre and beverages value chains,” he said.

Didiza acknowledged the challenges that businesses faced and commended the authorities for their “heroic efforts” to feed the nation despite the odds. “Despite the current challenges, the agricultural industries will continue to ensure that availability of food and fibre is assured,” said Didiza

Agbiz said that the financial impact on farmers, agribusinesses, or food security is unclear at this time and will be challenging to measure. “At Agbiz, we have sent out a survey to collect critical data that will help us understand the scale of the financial impact of this crisis on the sector.There are also food security concerns as the effect of load shedding will probably show in the volumes of products to be harvested/produced later in the coming months due to the time lag in agricultural production stages.”

Famers urge to meet eskom

Last year In a letter to Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, Agri SA  asked for an urgent meeting to discuss the likelihood of load shedding in the upcoming weeks. Unless farmers can put measures in place to buffer against the consequences of loadshedding, the current energy crisis may have ramifications for food security into the following year as loadshedding increases as South Africa enters the summer crop growing season.

Statistics from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) show that in 2021, electricity costs in the agriculture sector were almost R9 billion. This represents more than 7% of the sector’s expenditure on intermediate goods and services. For the irrigation and water treatment systems in this industry, a dependable power supply is very important.

The effects of load shedding on the various agricultural commodities are wide-ranging and might be disastrous. Loadshedding has effects that go beyond blackouts. When load shedding is over, irrigation systems typically need to be restarted for up to an hour, which costs farmers time and extra labor. Blackouts also affect cooling and packaging, which has an impact on food quality. They also present a health risk to both people and animals since they prevent access to clean water for drinking and halt wastewater treatment. For commodities intended for export, the effects include delayed shipments and a breakdown in the cold chain procedures required by international markets. These results will damage South Africa’s reputation as a trustworthy source market.

In the end, the country’s food security is most at risk from load shedding. The country will only face the effects of load-shedding in the future if the projected produce from this summer’s harvest fails to materialize, as crops fail due to a lack of irrigation or farmers grow fewer crops out of fear of losses. Food shortages and high costs will follow.In order for farmers to prepare for the upcoming season, they need to know what the plan is beyond this initial attempt to stabilize the grid. Agri SA is aware of the recent statement that Eskom will approach the market to acquire 1000MW.

Given the significance of the issues involved, Agri SA has asked Eskom for help in order to comprehend the current difficulties and obtain some insight into the year’s prognosis, enabling the industry to create measures to reduce the risks and safeguard both food farmers and consumers. In order to prevent a food security catastrophe in addition to the present power issue, we have faith that the power utility and the government will cooperate with us.

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