By Nonhlanhla Ntuli

The agriculture sector like many other sectors in South Africa finds itself headed down a dark path as a result of the impact of the country’s continuing loadshedding. Only time would tell whether the recently announced interventions by the government, including the introduction of a Minister of Electricity and debt relief for Eskom, would be the light at the end of the tunnel for the sector.

A call by Agri SA for the agriculture sector to be declared an essential service to mitigate the devastating impact and looming threat to the country’s food security proved futile as experts said exemption from load shedding would be near-impossible.

Responding to the call, as reported in the Cape Argus, the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) suggested Agri SA negotiate bilaterally with Eskom on terms and that “the NDMC could not classify the agriculture sector as an essential service, because it should be negotiated with the National Energy Crisis Committee (Necom).”

While the ball is still up in the air, small agricultural businesses like Fontotje Animal Feeds in Mpumalanga continue to suffer.

“Loadshedding is negatively impacting the farming sector, and we are seeing a drop in poultry farmers wanting to grow broiler chickens because broiler productions demand electricity,” said Zanele Lukhele the owner of Fontotje Animal Feeds.

She added that they are concerned about access to electricity during winter months when there is usually pressure on the electricity grid. Her business sells animal feed, supplements, and medication for domestic animals, and the business also sells poultry equipment.

“The additional portfolio to the President’s Cabinet might not yield the desired outcome, especially for small businesses in townships such as mine,” she added,

Lukhele believes exempting the sector from load shedding seems like a plausible solution. She further explained that her business’s capacity was currently very low due to load shedding and recent floods that hit the Nkomazi Region.

Despite the loadshedding challenges the business is going through, it’s still creating a positive impact by supplying farmers with agricultural inputs in the Nkomazi Region since 2021. This is in partnership with the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative and the Department of Agriculture and land Affairs.

“I’m proud that my business currently employs 11 people that can now take care of their families,” she said.

Source: Fontotje Animal Feeds