September 4, 2023

Let’s move mountains to address the energy challenge in the agriculture sector

Dr Ivan Meyer, Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, responded to the BFAP Study Report at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s Energy Summit, held in Rawsonville recently.

Addressing farmers, producers, energy experts, officials, and representatives from the financial sector, Minister Meyer called on attendees to “move mountains to lower the sector’s reliance on Eskom.” The impact of the energy crisis on the whole agriculture sector has been severe.

Minister Meyer highlighted the impact of loadshedding by referencing a survey conducted by AgriSA. According to the survey, a staggering 56% of farmers experienced income losses due to load shedding.

Seventy-five percent of farmers were compelled to adapt their production, leading to 39% reporting diminished crop yields. Alarmingly, 31% of farmers had to scale down their livestock holdings as a direct result of persistent power interruptions.

Highlighting the broader implications, Minister Meyer articulated that the energy crisis could potentially escalate into a food crisis and trigger rising food prices.

To counter this, he advocated for a strategic shift towards alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, thus alleviating the sector’s dependency on conventional energy sources.

Minister Meyer firmly expressed the Western Cape Government’s commitment in creating an environment that enables several outcomes. These include facilitating financial support for farmers including tax relief; job creation in the agriculture and agri-processing sectors; encouraging energy efficiency and conservation practices in farming operations to reduce energy consumption and costs; and greater collaboration between the government and private sector stakeholders to develop comprehensive and sustainable solutions to the energy crisis.

Alternative solutions discussed include solar and wind energy, gas-to-power initiatives, green hydrogen hydropower, small-scale embedded generation, containerized PV systems, and biogas.

Dr. Meyer further emphasized the Western Cape’s reputation for innovation and resilience in the face of challenges. He remained optimistic that the two-day summit would yield solutions not only catering to the energy needs of the sector, but also safeguarding the economy and employment opportunities within the agriculture domain.