The lack of electricity at the Johannesburg market since October 26 owing to cable theft is having a disastrous impact on the quality and safety of agricultural products, agricultural industry organisation Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede said on October 29.
“During power outages, the market does not have the ability to supply power to the cold storage rooms. This has resulted in these storage rooms operating without cooling since October 26, with disastrous consequences to agricultural products. The value of stock in these cold rooms amounts to between R30-million and R61-million.”
The temperature in cold storage rooms should be between -2 °C and 2 °C; however, owing to a lack of electricity, the temperature is currently above 10 °C and it is compromising the freshness and quality of products relying on cold storage tremendously, Agri SA states.
Ripening rooms have the same issue, as ripening cycles are compromised, resulting in massive losses to producers owing to poor ripening quality, besides other problems.
“The losses by producers are estimated at around R500 000 a day. Not having electricity is unacceptable for a market that provides agricultural products to 15-million people daily,” Van der Rheede emphasised.
Agri SA is calling for immediate action and for city officials to restore the power to the Johannesburg market.
The market has generators that can only supply power to sales areas. At night, these generators are switched off and agents have to then run their own generators to provide lighting. This poses serious safety consequences, as working in darkness is dangerous and compromises worker safety, Agri SA added.
Van der Rheede said cable theft was an ongoing occurrence and that the issue had been raised with the city administration on several occasions.
Agri SA appealed to Johannesburg mayor Mpho Moerane and the city council to do everything in their power to restore electricity supply to the Johannesburg market. And to put the necessary security measures in place to prevent the theft of electricity cables in future.
“Compromising the safety and quality of agricultural products is in contravention of the Agricultural Products Standards Act. Hence, urgent intervention by the city to restore, maintain and protect the electricity supply to the market is required.
"Producers pay 5% of all sales over to the City of Johannesburg, which amounts to R450-million a year, and expect in return that the market is in a good operational state,” he said.