Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa, Jacques du Preez,
Hortgro’s general manager for trade and markets, and Dr Thomas Funke, CEO of the SA Cane
Growers’ Association, confirmed that the rolling blackouts were seriously affecting the entire
value chain in their respective industries.
The trio expressed particular concern about the impact the rolling blackouts were having on
irrigation crops.
Chadwick said the rainy season had not commenced in most citrus-growing regions, and
weather fronts were resulting in extreme heat cycles, rendering fruit trees entirely dependent
on irrigation.
“Most irrigation systems run on electricity, as opposed to gravitational pressure, with the
decentralized nature of pump stations on a typical farm making it impossible for generators to
do the job,” he said.
Du Preez pointed out that deciduous fruit orchards also had to be irrigated from now until
harvesting, and said the relatively dry winter in some parts of the Western Cape at present was
making this even more important.
Funke added that disruptions to growers’ irrigation programmes were irreversible, resulting in
growth losses, crops starting to show stress, and greater susceptibility of trees to diseases.
In addition, spikes in electricity supply could cause severe damage to motors and other
irrigation equipment, at a significant cost to growers.
Hannes de Waal, CEO of the Sundays River Valley Citrus Company, said many pack houses had
invested in alternative sources of energy, such as generators or solar power, at a very
significant cost, but most of these solutions were not geared to fill the gap when rolling
blackouts reached levels above Eskom’s Stage 4.

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