SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s agriculture sector is currently on the receiving end of the harsh impacts of the uncertain recurrent power cuts in the country.

The detrimental effects of load-shedding extend far beyond power disruptions, denting South Africa’s GDP by an estimated daily range of R204 million to R899 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.

Presently oscillating between stage 2 and stage 3, Eskom, this week, reported strides in plant maintenance and network expansion. However, challenges persist, with the recent approval to reinstate Koeberg unit 1, set to take up to two weeks, followed by maintenance for unit 2.

“Unit 1’s revival signals progress, but uncertainty looms over unit 2’s downtime,” Eskom admits.

Plans for the year-end introduction of Kusile units 1 to 5, potentially adding 4,000 MW, offer a glimmer of hope. Nevertheless, delays plague other units like Medupi unit 4, expected online by June 2024, underscoring the uphill battle to stabilize power supply.

Eskom’s ambitious agenda to bolster the grid by 2032, highlighted by Segomoco Scheppers, stresses the need for 53 GW of new generation capacity and 14,200 km of power lines. This expansion, crucial for integrating renewable energy sources, faces hurdles, particularly in regions generating substantial solar and wind power, experiencing strained networks.

Leslie Naidoo emphasizes the urgency to redirect power from south to north, addressing the stark demand disparities, alongside the installation of 170 transformers for upcoming renewable projects.

“While strides are being made, much-needed investments are required in regions like the Northern, Western, and Southern Cape,” Naidoo urges, citing an infrastructure deficit.

Developers, in conjunction with Eskom and industry associations, eye an impressive 66 GW from wind and solar projects across South Africa, painting a promising yet challenging path ahead for the country’s power landscape.

A report by Nova Economics states that agriculture in South Africa was the sector most adversely impacted in 2018-2019 –  its GDP sectoral growth was -4.54% and that the cost of load-shedding for agriculture amounted to R4.2 per kWh in terms of 2020 values

“The agriculture sector’s growth contracted by 3.3% in the last quarter of 2022, well above the overall 1.3% reduction,” reads the report.

“In the same quarter, it shed 12,000 jobs while the last quarter of 2022 saw significant load shedding, the first quarter of 2023 has witnessed truly unprecedented levels of blackouts.”

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