Johannesburg, South Africa (October 18, 2022) Load shedding is having a severe financial impact on South African food production, according to an expert at energy efficiency firm Energy Partners.
According to Dawie Kriel, the head of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration at Energy Partners, this affects not only primary food production but also post-harvest handling and the retail sector.
“The interrupted electricity supply is costing the local food production industry millions every month and could be depriving South Africa of quality nutrition,” Mr Kriel said.
His comments follow a plea from the South African Poultry Association earlier this month for government assistance to help them guarantee electricity supply to the nation’s biggest abattoirs as almost-daily load shedding is harming the birds’ welfare and creating health risks.
The slaughterhouses, some of which can process as many as 13 000 chickens hourly, can’t rely on generators as they aren’t able to create sufficient power for their needs, said Kevin Lovell, CEO of the poultry industry body.
When power cuts interrupt the process, the birds “have been stunned but they haven’t been killed; they’re hanging upside down and they’re coming back alive”, he told Bloomberg.
“It’s a real problem. And it’s a huge waste problem because everything that stops in the process, sometimes hundreds of tons, has to be cleared. You have to clean and sterilize everything and then you have to dump at a medical waste site.”
Kriel said on Wednesday that the entire supply chain – from primary production through to the consumer – is impacted in one way or another because farmers are highly dependent on electricity for key processes such as irrigation, livestock care, and harvesting.
“In the dairy industry, for example, a herd of dairy cows and the infrastructure to support milk production run predictably every day according to the animals’ biorhythms. It is not something that can be switched on and off at a moment’s notice.”
This was the same problem for the poultry industry. Lovell said while load shedding followed schedules, it was sometimes imposed at a few minutes’ notice.
“Once in the factory, it needs to be kept at the perfect temperature and then processed through a series of heating and cooling stages to provide the milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, and many other products used daily,” Mr. Kriel added.