Load Shedding – How does it affect agriculture?
 

Load shedding

has proved crippling to South Africans with the agricultural sector being hit especially hard. This sector operates in critical time windows in which irrigation, harvesting, packing and so forth must take place.
 
These time windows can range from weeks to months and unforeseen load shedding in any one of these windows can lead to a loss of quality of produce and therefore financial loss.

Irrigation

Certain crops, like maize and wheat, require extensive irrigation during the day. Unfortunately, because of the intense South African sun during the summer, irrigation can’t take place two hours before or after noon because of water evaporation.
 
This means that early morning and afternoon are the best times for crop irrigation. Unfortunately this is also the peak electricity usage period and when load shedding is normally scheduled.

Dairy

Another sector that is severely affected by load shedding is the dairy industry.
As soon as the milk leaves the cow it has to be kept cold. The dairy product has to be kept at four degrees. It can’t freeze or be too warm and load shedding can be disastrous. Most dairy producers have backup energy generating systems but these are extremely expensive.
 

Fruit Canning

Canning relies on processes that can’t be interrupted. The production system cannot be stopped and started at will. Once the production system has stopped it needs to be sterilised before it can be started again. This process takes between two to three hours.
 
Before the production line stops it also needs to be cleaned to adhere to hygienic standards.
Therefore, regular power outages makes it near impossible for the system to be switched on at all.

The Cold chain

All agricultural industries from dairy to fruit, meat, vegetable and so forth are dependent on the cold chain to remain active.
 
This means from field to shop perishable goods must remain cooled. As an example, table grapes must remain cooled between a certain minimum and maximum temperature for 72 hours before
shipped.
 
For farmers, a break in this cold chain means that sub-standards goods are sold at a sub-standard price.
 
Woolworths considers goods as wasted after the cold chain has been broken for eight consecutive minutes and dumps it. Pick & Pay works on seven minutes.
 
The constant functioning of the cold chain is therefore of utmost importance to producers.

Devastating effect

Load shedding can have a devastating effects on farmers and agriculture. There are so many aspects of the production system that relies on a constant energy supply that unforeseen load shedding can lead to real losses.
 
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