Strategic plan needed to help provincial farmers weather electricity crisis

Issued by Nomvano Zibonda, MPL
Shadow MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform

The Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform needs to urgently put measures in place to assist farmers battling to keep their farms operational due to the indefinite rolling blackouts affecting the province.

Countless farmers, both emerging and established, are seeing their farms devastated by the ongoing energy crisis. There have been significant disruptions to the irrigation of crops across the province, as pump stations that feed water into canals get disconnected, meaning that farmers cannot draw water at their allocated times because the canals are dry.

Dairy farms are seeing significant production declines as the milking process relies heavily on electronic machinery. Not only are they milking less, but as a result, cows are producing less milk as their routines are disrupted.

Poultry farmers are battling to keep their stocks alive as they fight to overcome the intense heat during blackouts because the fans stop working.

Even if farmers are successful in bringing the food to market, stocks are being devastated before reaching the end consumer due to breaks in the cold chain, causing food to spoil and go to waste.

Those farmers who are turning to alternative power sources are finding operational costs soar as the cost of diesel is exorbitant.

These disruptions are more than a mere inconvenience, they are placing the food security of our province at risk and need to be addressed!

We cannot throw food away while our people starve.

I have submitted questions to Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC, Nonkqubela Pieters, to find out what support has been given to farmers and what mechanisms have been put in place to reduce the extent of the damage caused by these rolling blackouts.

I will also be engaging farmers and relevant stakeholders within the province to better understand the extent of the damage caused by loadshedding and assist them in devising relevant solutions.

While we understand the Minister of Agriculture has set up a national task team to monitor the effects of loadshedding within the sector, as a province there must be a strategic plan to look into the provincial effects and devise tangible solutions.

The DA will continue to fight for our farmers to be given the necessary support that they deserve from our government.