In the deciduous fruit industry, load shedding is the primary aggravating factor, placing immense pressure on irrigation schedules and costing thousands for sources of backup power. The impact of load shedding on the agricultural sector reaches far beyond farm-level profitability. According to Anton Rabe, executive director of Hortgro, the country’s power cuts are also threatening the development of up-and-coming farmers, and projects geared towards deciduous farmer development and transformation.
Rabe pointed out several concerns about the government’s approach to addressing load shedding. “We are concerned that government seems to not fully understand what the impact is on a grass-roots scale.”
On the effects of Eskom’s failures on development and transformation on deciduous farms, Rabe said: “This is yet another risk factor. It affects the viability and profitability at the farm level, so any new ventures, projects or programs will be very difficult to start up in this environment. As an industry, we’ve agreed to rather focus the next few years on supporting farmers that are already in the system and see how we can ensure that they do not go bust. This is instead of growing the percentage of our emerging growers and graduating them into the commercial mainstream to create space for new entrants.”