Farmers in South Africa have reached a breaking point, says Roelie van Reenen, supply chain executive at Beefmaster Group, with many crippled by collapsed or collapsing infrastructure, and hammered by continuous load shedding.

Van Reenen said that agricultural communities have seen the collapse of critical infrastructure in the country, which is failing due to unrelenting load shedding, wreaking havoc on farmers and businesses all along the agricultural supply chain.

He said that farmers are dependent on irrigation to water crops, but due to power outages, this can simply no longer happen. The system was under strain before, but with load shedding, it has simmered over into a full-blown crisis, and we are seeing how it is threatening our nation`s food security.

Van Reenen said the impact of prolonged load shedding is likely to be food shortages and price hikes for food items, with farmers unable to absorb the costs of mitigating load shedding.

“Unfortunately, that cost will likely end up being passed on to consumers, driving up food prices.”

In January, poultry producer Astral Foods said the continued load shedding and general collapse of municipal infrastructure was causing severe business disruption, rising costs and ultimately price implications. This is because operating costs are skyrocketing and rising prices are having a domino effect on the supply chain.

According to the Bureau of Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), one-third of South Africa’s agricultural income is directly dependent on irrigation. But for most South Africans, the true impact of the crisis will be felt directly in their pockets, as monthly grocery bills skyrocket and certain products run out.

According to BFAP, “load shedding increases costs both directly and indirectly through higher levels of waste and spoilage within the food chain”.

Financial results for some food companies show that fuel costs to run generators during load shedding are skyrocketing. While load shedding has a direct impact on South Africa’s food production.

Van Rienen points out that it also poses major problems for local and surrounding communities. Municipalities are facing major problems with declining collection rates and increasing pressure to keep taxpayers off the books.

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