Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)
DA calls for fewer power cuts to Free State farmers
Rolling blackouts have had a severe impact on the Free State’s agriculture sector and it was crucial for Eskom to manage the sector as an essential service in terms of power distribution in order to not harm food production. This was according to the DA’s Dr Roy Jankielsohn, leader of the opposition in the Free State Legislature.
Jankielsohn said he had petitioned Eskom to declare agriculture as a critical sector and to manage power distribution accordingly. In a letter to Eskom’s general manager, Agnes Mlambo, who was responsible for distribution in the Central
East Cluster, including the Free State, he had requested power distribution to be planned so that it would support sustainable food production.
“The Free State is South Africa’s breadbasket. Its 2022/23 budget states that [the province’s] farmers contributes 23% of the country’s sorghum harvest, 56% of sunflower, 45% of maize, 26% of groundnuts, 40% of potatoes and 44% of soya bean.
“We call on Eskom to put measures in place to protect the industry at all costs in order to make it possible for farmers in our province to continue. The current apple harvesting process, for instance, has been severely affected by rolling blackouts, which cause interruptions in the cold chain in packhouses,” he told Farmer’s Weekly.
According to Jankielsohn, Eskom infrastructure provided for separate lines of power supply to farming communities. These lines did not affect towns and cities. There was thus no reason why load-shedding could not be implemented in such a way as to cause minimum disruption and not harm food and fibre production.
“The situation is desperate and affects everybody in the province. The agricultural value chain is one of the biggest employers and has a significant economic footprint. The economies of rural areas are based mainly on agriculture, and the demise of the sector would cause untold harm […],” he said.
Irrigation, dairy farming, milling and many other agriculturerelated operations depended on an uninterrupted power supply, and some industries such as large-scale milling relied solely on Eskom for bulk power.