SOUTH AFRICA – Culdevco, a South African fruit industry, heavily reliant on consistent energy for irrigation and packhouse integrity, has invested significantly to safeguard its operations in the face of the current load shedding.

“Load shedding has hit the country’s fruit industry at every level, affecting quality, supply chains, and livelihoods,” remarks Mishkaat Anderson, GM at Culdevco.

“This crisis disrupts irrigation, refrigeration, and processing, impacting both local production and our global competitiveness.”

According to a recent report, the detrimental effects of load-shedding extend far beyond power disruptions, denting South Africa’s GDP by an estimated daily range of ZAR 204 million to ZAR 899 million (USD 11.02 million to USD 48.63 million).

The Reserve Bank underscores its far-reaching consequences, outlining its detrimental effects on mining, transportation, storage, manufacturing, forestry, fisheries, and notably, agriculture.

“The strain of stage 4 and higher load-shedding hits hard, especially affecting irrigation and cooling systems,” warns the agricultural sector.

Eskom’s Failure Costs Industry Dearly

Culdevco reports a 45% decline in sales at fruit tree nurseries due to load shedding, compelling producers to halt planned expansions. Energy costs have doubled as diesel and generators sustain operations.

In Limpopo, a sizable apple and stone fruit farmer investing ZAR 4.4 million (USD 237.7 thousand) in solar power to counter load shedding’s impact highlights the severity. Irrigation delays, escalating costs, and investment in alternate energy sources underscore the crisis’s breadth.

An export stone fruit producer near Paarl earmarks ZAR 1.2 million (USD 64.84 thousand) for packhouse hybrid systems and solar panels, further investing in load shedding-proof irrigation.

Industry’s Survival Efforts

“Farmers are diverting substantial resources to ensure survival,” Anderson emphasizes. “Amidst export concerns, the industry pushes to keep harbors exempt from load shedding during peak seasons.”

She continued, further stating that the agriculture sector grapples with challenges, compounded by escalating costs and that collaboration and mitigating actions are crucial to industry longevity.

“Despite contributing 2.57% to GDP, the fruit industry employs 300,000 people directly, upholding national food security. Sustaining and growing this figure is imperative,” Anderson adds.

Planning for Resilience

Innovative solutions like diesel generators, solar power, and water storage systems are becoming integral across agriculture. Investing in water elevation emerges as a cost-effective, long-term solution amid discussions on energy strategies for stability.

Experts stress the need for a comprehensive energy strategy to weather ongoing load shedding and potential future disruptions, urging producers to prepare for escalating operational challenges.

The South African fruit industry grapples with persistent load shedding, prompting a strategic investment drive to ensure continuity amidst an unpredictable energy landscape.

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