DA calls for urgent intervention to protect farmers against load shedding and avert a food crisis

Issued by Noko Masipa MP – DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
16 Jan 2023 in News

Note to Editors: Please find an attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP

Whilst the DA welcomes the discussion between Minister Thoko Didiza and the agricultural Sector on the impact of load shedding, we are concerned about the lack of a tangible plan from the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to shield farmers against power cuts and protect produce from the forthcoming harvest season from going to waste.

The challenges faced by irrigation farms in the Northern Cape and their agricultural produce cooling facilities are enormous and require urgent and specific interventions to preserve agricultural produce. The irrigation belt of the Northern Cape is severely affected to the extent that farmers in the Douglas area are worried that if the load shedding does not stop now, the cost of the damage is far bigger and banks are going to find it difficult to refinance them.

In the face of this looming national disaster, DALRRD appears to have abandoned farmers and left them to face the crippling power cuts by themselves.

In December 2022, AgriSA appealed to National Treasury to consider alleviating cost pressure from farmers through incentives to offset input and energy costs. Since 2015 diesel has risen by 170% coupled with shipping, and fertiliser which increased by 700% and 150% respectively. The basic food items costs prices have on average increased by 22% over the last 5 years. Yet to date no rebates were given to farmers to help them navigate these challenges.

Agricultural produce cooling facilities cannot withstand consistent Stage 4 load shedding, let alone Stage 6. This is a pending disaster for the country’s food security as produce may wither from the consequences of load shedding and lack of irrigation.

The DA supports the call made by farmers that the government step in very fast and provide relief to the chicken houses, cooling facilities and irrigation schemes by:

  • Providing diesel or diesel rebate to farmers to assist with harvesting and irrigation;
  • Treasury must provide rebates to offset the costs for farmers who invest in their own private energy generation system;
  • Provide exclusionary measures in areas such as irrigation belt of the Northern Cape that are in their harvesting season and experiencing sweltering temperature of over 40 degrees.

Minister Thoko Didiza must actively announce a clear plan of support to farmers affected by prolonged load shedding and save the country from a possible food security crisis.