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South Africa: The heavy cost of load shedding on farmers

Chicken farmer Herman du Preez stands among thousands of his chickens in an electricity dependent run at his Frangipani farm near Lichtenburg Thursday March 23, 2023.   -  
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Denis Farrell/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

South Africa

North West Province based chicken farmer Herman Du Preez is still counting his losses after 40, 000 of his broiler chickens suffocated and died due to power supply disruptions which affected the small farming town of Lichtenburg earlier this year.

In recent years South Africa's power generation has become so inadequate that the continent's most developed economy must cope with rolling power blackouts for up to eight to 10 hours per day.This has had an adverse impact on business, from small to large operations.

A majority of Du Preez’s chicken operation relies on a consistent power supply to regulate the environment in which his chickens are bred.

Without the security of knowing he will have guaranteed electricity he has to rely on three generators as back up.

“That controller in that house (chicken house) that switched off, It's the whole brain of the house. It runs literally everything. It runs the feed, it runs the cooling, the ventilation, the humidity, the temperature. So for us as chicken farmers we are 100% dependable on power. That's why I have our three generators in case of emergencies, because we know that we can run out of power," he explained.

Du Preez suggests that the South African government and the agricultural sector should come together to look into ways to minimise the impact of power outages on farmers, adding that it would reduce the cost of the price of food.

“I think I don't just speak from the chicken side, but also from a maize side. There's other people who does cattle. We need power for water pumps for our animals. But I think if they can just maybe give the farmers of South Africa, a little bit of break on on the amount of phases that we have to go through,” he suggested.

Adil Nchabeleng, an energy expert, said he believed residents who suffered major losses should express their anger at the government.

He said he was optimistic of improvements.

"...... The new minister, I'm happy, his focus is now on ensuring that power stations are kept open in the lifespan of those power stations are extended and you can get more electricity out of them and that is where we should be moving towards. Then you will see improvement on a general scale, the economy, the GDP will improve efficiency in terms of job creation. Industry that is left, South Africa will come back. Our agricultural sector will be able to pump."

South Africa’s power problem is taking a huge chunk out its GDP after its central bank estimated that $51 million is lost every day due to load shedding.

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