Loashshedding interventions for the agriculture sector welcome however implementation is vital


Following a series of requests by the Democratic Alliance (DA), to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, requesting that Minister Thoko Dididza comes and accounts before the committee on measures to address the impact of loadsheding on the agriculture sector, the Minister and her Agriculture Energy Task Team (AETT) appeared before the committee on Friday last week.

The AETT which was set up by the Minister included well-known agriculture economists like Dr Ferdi Meyer, Dr Ntombela, Kalaba and Wandile Sihlobo and other BFAB team members.

While the DA welcomes the careful articulation of the problem areas by the AETT and perceived possible solutions, frustrations on the ground remain very high as this task team was agreed on only the 13th of January 2023 with industry bodies to deal with energy. Some farmers feel is too little too late.  However, it is now left to the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development to provide the committee with implementation timelines.

The AETT acknowledged the damage done by the ANC government-led Eskom blackouts on agriculture and the potential destruction of biological assets and food security. Still, AETT must consult widely to map practical support interventions needed to produce and supply energy to farmers let alone rebates and tax relief. So far, they have identified the well-known adverse impacts on agriculture and the costs to the agriculture economy.

The DA welcomes the clarity that fuel rebates on agro-processing are being attended to and shall follow similar process that’s being applied at the primary farming level.  The Minister of Finance is reviewing the rebate implementation.

The Democratic Alliance remains concerned that the AETT is going to rely on the competence of DALRRD and Eskom to treat the crisis as a matter of urgency and implement the recommendations speedily.

Furthermore, while we are satisfied with the preliminary work done by the AETT, the DA still feels that there were no clear timelines for what needs to happen and when. Farmers are very frustrated by load shedding and need solutions now.  Agriculture is time sensitive and all measures that the energy task team identified require an implementation timeline.

While there is enough green energy to harvest from the Northern Cape side, there was no indication that Eskom or DALRRD has immediate plans in that regard.

Going forward, it is important to conduct a follow-up engagement with the task team to ascertain the progress made on all areas identified for possible interventions.

And furthermore, there are other vital areas that the committee couldn’t get clarity on from the department. These areas include:

  1. Northern Cape: We need to know about the Eskom grid capacity of the Northern Cape to harvest green energy to feed into the grid and give the needed relief for the farmers, especially the irrigation belt.
  2. Electricity Generation for Own Use: The DA recognizes a great potential in the agricultural sector to create small co-ops (typically 4 to 5 farms) that can build methane digesters and use the methane produced to generate their own electricity (for own use). We need to understand if DALRRD shall consider incentives for this type of programme and if budget reprioritization shall be considered to support farmers.
  3. Zero Vat Rating for Poultry: For years the DA has been advocating for a zero Vat rating on the poultry industry, we would like the AETT to negotiate this with National Treasury. Ministerial support in this regard is very important.
  4. Joint Sitting with DPE: Lastly, the Democratic Alliance welcomes a proposal to have a joint sitting with the Department of Public Enterprise to take a deep dive into Eskom’s possible solution towards agriculture and save the country from plunging into food insecurity.

The Democratic Alliance remains concerned about these aggressive power cuts and the impact they have on agriculture and food security. We will continue our oversight role and ensure that we put solutions on the table in the best interests of saving vulnerable farmers and the rural economy.


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