Load shedding not only causes massive monetary losses for corporate South Africa but it also directly contributes to a spike in food waste. While Eskom works to implement reformations and take control over load shedding, South Africa is likely to endure more power cuts for the near future.
Food waste is increased when load shedding occurs due to various factors. Refrigeration units stop working, bakery ovens switch off, food production lines grind to a halt and farm animals suffer from overheating. Electricity is a vital component for all stages of the food production cycle – without it, food is spoiled and has to be discarded.
Food is spoiled when load shedding occurs
When load shedding occurs, frozen foods run the risk of defrosting and food items that need to be stored in refrigerators warm up. Smaller retail stores that do not have back-up generators suffer from greater food losses after power cuts. Frozen food that has thawed needs to be purchased and consumed soon afterward, but often these foods are not bought.
A similar situation occurs with restaurants and bakeries that are not equipped with power back-up systems. Food that is mid-cook or needs to have a complete cycle in an oven, such as bread, is often ruined by power cuts. These types of foods cannot be re-baked when power is restored, so bakers and chefs have no option but to throw them away.
Farm animals need electricity
The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) have voiced their concerns for the well-being of farm animals that depend on electricity for their survival. Electricity is crucial for animal farming. It powers ventilation fans, cooling or heating systems and lights that keep the facilities comfortable for the animals.
Poultry farms are particularly reliant on a reliable source of electricity. Ventilation and cooling are two key systems that ensure the healthy operation of poultry farming and the comfort of the chickens. Chickens and turkeys are prone to overheating; without ventilation and cooling, the birds can suffer heat stress and even death, which leads to food losses.
Other farming systems that are heavily reliant on electricity are pig farming and aquaculture. “We are extremely worried about the fate of thousands of animals that may suffer as a result of intermittent electricity deprivation,” says the manager of the NSPCA’s Farm Animal Protection Unit, Grace de Lange.
There are numerous small-scale and subsistence farmers in South Africa that cannot afford back-up generators. The load shedding food losses from these farms alone are quite substantial. Load shedding affects all South Africans, but it also leads to greater waste management issues, particularly in the food industry.
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