South African deciduous fruit farmers struck by power cuts
Power outages have become the latest obstacle in South Africa’s upcoming deciduous fruit season, Reuters reports.
The recent utility issues can directly affect fruit size and quality, as electricity is needed for irrigation pumps.
Local farmer Heinie du Toit, who is preparing to harvest his apple and pear crops, told Reuters that this could hinder exports by as much as 10% and generate losses of up to $435,600.
"The trees have a certain need for water and if they don't get that water it's going to affect the quality negatively and then you can't export the fruit," he was quoted as saying.
At packing houses such as Bella Frutta in Ceres, which is one of the country’s major growing regions, farmworkers are resorting to diesel generators to help keep conveyor belts moving and cold storage units at 30.2 °F.
"We struggle to keep a constant cooling supply to our cold rooms," said Fransu Viljoen, engineering manager at Bella Frutta.
Earlier this month, the firm went through over 5,000 liters of diesel just to keep operations running.
Utility company Eskom has anticipated that the issues could continue for two more years at least.
The power cuts are only the most recent threat to South Africa’s produce industry, with a drought, rising commodity prices due to the war in Ukraine, and logistics bottlenecks also impacting the sector.