Agbiz calls for less loadshedding in areas under irrigation

23rd January 2023 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Business organisation the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz) has urged for less loadshedding in areas under irrigation and food-processing facilities.

In crucial field crops, roughly 20% of maize, 15% of soybean, 34% of sugarcane and nearly half of the wheat production are produced under irrigation and these face severe challenges owing to persistently hot and dry conditions, coupled with constrained ability to irrigate. Fruits and vegetables also heavily rely on irrigation, and thus face similar challenges.

Similarly, in the dairy industry, aquaculture, red meat, poultry, animal feed manufacturing and piggeries, there are also concerns that loadshedding beyond Stage 2 makes operations and planning challenging, as these industries all require continuous power for their usual activities.

Agribusinesses face similar challenges in various downstream processing activities, such as milling, bakeries, abattoirs, wine processing, packaging and animal vaccine production.

Therefore, Agbiz continues with engagements with State-owned power utility Eskom to lobby that loadshedding does not exceed stage two or three, which is critical for the near term, as well as to develop contingency plans that allow greater predictability, should outages be unavoidable so that companies may plan their operations around a more predictable schedule, it said.

The sector will also explore the path for renewables, and this might need government assistance, subsidies and revisions to the regulatory framework, which Agbiz will continue to voice in engagements with authorities.

"The severe load-shedding has increased food security risks in South Africa and financial pressures on farmers, agribusinesses and value-chain role players, but statements on food security must only be made from an evidence base and, while the risks are great, we will share the results of a survey it had conducted during the past week as soon as we can," the business chamber says.

The results of the survey are being analysed by a joint team of experts, and the survey will also be used to inform possible interventions that government and private sector representatives are formulating to ensure a sound approach. The results of the survey will help enrich the response approach for the sector.

"Agbiz has also been engaged in various meetings with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, and Eskom to find ways to ease the pressure on agribusinesses. These engagements are ongoing and will benefit from the results of the survey," it says.