Food security is being threatened by the persistent rolling blackouts. Irrigation farmers say the fields are severely affected and the ongoing blackouts will affect consumers.
Irrigation farmers in the Northern Cape say not enough water is being pumped to give the correct amount of water and fertiliser to the land.
Hannes Bruwer has been a farmer for the past 15 years, since the inception of load shedding in 2007. His farming consists of wheat, maize, and lusern amongst others. The persistent rolling blackouts have an enormous impact on his field.
Farmers are experiencing three outages per day.
The center pivots need electricity to operate for the field to be watered.
“It’s quite a challenge at the moment because we are in the middle of the winter, of the crop season and the potential is being laid out at the moment and if we cannot water the stuff, there is going to be a much smaller yield at the end and there needs to be more importing of wheat to bake some bread for South Africa,” says Bruwer.
When farmers experience blackouts during the night, it’s difficult to determine if the nostrils of the pivots are able to function.
Bruwer further says the staff morale is at an all-time low, but it’s the consumers who are the biggest losers.
“The crop that we planted in June and July is by far the most expensive wheat that we ever planted with the high diesel prices and the high fertiliser and input prices. So, somewhere it is going to put it over to the consumer at the end of the chain, because the diesel prices and the electricity scarcity at the moment are affecting it hugely and the yield is not going to be what it should be. So, it is red flags all the way,” Bruwer added.
Agri Northern Cape has called on Eskom for some relief in these trying times.
“We have to do something. We can have a longer outage at a time and only two times per day. It will help a lot. This amount of load shedding is going to have huge losses for the irrigation sector,” says Nicol Jansen, Agri Northern Cape President.
Jansen says irrigation farmers are losing thousands of rands in water with the current rolling blackouts.
“Vaal Harts irrigation system working with water channels and the Orange Rietriver channel system and in Douglas, so you have to apply for water and when it is released you need to use it. When there are rolling blackouts when the water comes through, you can’t use it and it goes back to the river. Farmers lose R25 000 per day,” Jansen added.
And there’s some advice for some who would want to enter the agricultural sector specifically irrigation farming.
“At the moment, it is a big issue with the vegetables in the area, with no electricity there is no pack line and no productivity. There is not going to be vegetables on the shelves and food security is definitely on the table. There are going to be issues with that. I think I will advise anyone who would love to be a farmer to think twice. At the moment it is not easy. Not the political pressure, but all these droughts and the floods and the Eskom. It’s a big problem,” Bruwer explains.
With the wheat being at a very sensitive stage, it’s unclear if a good yield will reach the market come December.
VIDEO: Irrigation farmers affected by current rolling blackouts