No politician, Eskom board member, or Eskom senior manager should receive a salary increase or bonus until the electricity crisis has been resolved, Agri Northern Cape have said. “They are the culprits who have cost agriculturists their salaries and bonuses,” said Northern president Wessel van der Merwe. “Farm labourers are at risk of losing their jobs. Farmworkers and their families are more valuable than any board member or manager at Eskom, who receives a huge salary.”
Van der Merwe said the agricultural community in the Northern Cape would do what they could to resolve the electricity crisis out of loyalty to their country, not out of any respect for politicians and Eskom. “The disorganised manner in which the government and Eskom are handling the electricity crisis is costing agriculturists in the Northern Cape millions of rand. No effective planning can be done to minimise damage, due to the unpredictability of load-shedding. Agro industries are incurring huge financial losses due to labour that can’t be effectively utilised. Silos, cellars and processing industries have lost their effectiveness and overhead costs have skyrocketed,” explained Van der Merwe.
He made special mention of the silo capacity at the Vaalharts irrigation scheme. “The silos have to be emptied of barley to make room for the maize harvest. Load-shedding, however, has hampered the process to such an extent it’s now 30% behind schedule. That could have a serious domino effect on the maize harvest if there is no storage capacity.” L oad-shedding has been implemented at critical growth and harvest times for export grapes and other crops. Irrigation schedules have fallen behind and huge crop losses have been incurred.
“Power supply to the province is cut off at will and we have to cope with between two and seven hours without electricity. This is disastrous for farmers who have to irrigate. No irrigation system was ever designed to accommodate continuous power cuts. It takes up to two hours to restart the pumps, and no sooner are they started than the power gets cut off again,” explained Van der Merwe. “The cold chain for fresh fruit and vegetables is interrupted, which influences shelf life.” – Robyn Joubert and Annelie Coleman