Note to Editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Roy Jankielsohn MPL
The agricultural sector in the Free State is critical for the country’s food security and should be regarded as a strategic and essential economic sector by Eskom.
The Free State provides 10% of all agricultural commodities in South Africa. Examples of the Free State’s national agricultural contributions as quoted by the MEC for Agriculture in his 2022/23 budget speech include sorghum 23%, sunflowers 56%, maize 45%, ground nuts 26%, potatoes 40%, soya beans 44% and the list goes on.
Load shedding is having a devastating effect on the primary and secondary agricultural sectors. Irrigation, dairy farming, milling and many other agriculture related operations are dependent on a steady supply of electricity, and in some instances such as large-scale milling rely solely on Eskom bulk power since generators are not able to generate the power required for their operations. These operations cannot just switch their operations on and off on short notice and require additional start up time to get production operations going.
While all businesses and industries are suffering because of load shedding and many towns are without water, we cannot afford food insecurity as well.
I have written to the General Manager, Ms Agnes Mlombo, responsible for Distribution in the Central East Cluster that includes the Free State, Requesting the following:
- To declare agriculture as an essential service for power distribution in the province.
- Protect our current harvest season during load shedding. Farmers are busy harvesting and pack houses and cold storages need stable energy supply.
- Implement alternative load shedding schedules according to commodities and regions in the Free State.
- The recognition that dairy farmers and irrigation farmers and milling operations have very specific and different requirements during load shedding and assist them accordingly.
- Recognising that load shedding in agriculture in the Free State has serious implications for food security.
- Recognising that load shedding is causing more crime and security risks for farmers. Many are experiencing an increase in cable and other theft on the farms due to load shedding.
The DA believes that it is within Eskom’s ability to carry out these requests since most of the agricultural sector receive electricity directly from Eskom.