South Africans are lamenting the amount of food that is going bad as a result of load shedding and the extreme heat, where they are now being forced to throw out hundreds of rand on a weekly basis.
On a commercial front, the dairy, meat and fruit and vegetables industry are bemoaning the high costs now associated with running generators and buying diesel to keep their cold rooms running.
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The South African Meat Processors Association (SAMPA) told The Citizen that suppliers have been forced to reduce the amount of meat being processed in order to curb losses.
Storage and hygiene energy requirements
“Everyone within this commercial sector absolutely has to have their refrigeration running. We also need to maintain hygiene standards and for this electricity is definitely required for the different cleaning machinery and hot water generation.
“The machines we use for scrubbing boots, for example, they are all electric and require power. There are several aspects to meat processing hygiene that requires electricity.
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“Our members have had to spend an enormous about of money to invest in generators and these are capital intensive. And its also very expensive to run.”
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It said that input cost has become an additional cost to the producing of goods, and many of our members are not able to recover that in product prices because consumers can’t afford to pay and supermarket refuse to alter their price increases and that leads to margin squeeze in the manufacturing sector.
“The input cost keep going up and up, selling prices remain fairly static and as the margin price shrinks, it soon becomes non profitable to produce.
“There are two things we need to see. That is price increase – inflation- and a return of electricity to normal channels through the municipality so that members don’t need to run generators for 8 to 10 hours a day,” SAMPA said.
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Till then, SA could likely see a meat shortage in the months to come.
Dairy industry: Cows milked twice a day
The diary industry shared the same sentiments. Dr Ndumiso Mazibuko, Senior Economist for the South African Milk Processors Association explained that the industry has also had to invest in generators in order to keep the processing of milk going.
“It is important to note that the production of processed milk and the production of the other dairy products like yoghurt, maas, cheese, and milk powder cannot take place in the absence of the availability of electricity.
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“Cows are milked twice or three times a day and the process can only take place if electricity is available. To deal with load-shedding, major investments were made by producers of the primary dairy industry (producers of unprocessed milk) and the secondary dairy industry (producers of processed milk and the manufacturers of other dairy products), in respect of generators but the cost to use the generators is so high, that it is not sustainable.
“But we had no choice. The dairy enterprises have made the above investments in order to adhere to dairy standards, and quality and mitigate any food safety risks,” Dr Mazibuko explained.
She also explained that wastage could not even be redirected to charities as there were legal measures in place by health authorities that required manufactures of foods to not distribute diary products that were not in line with certain standard.
A ray of light from Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development
Mazibuko said that SAMPRO was encouraged by the initiative by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development to develop a task team to deal with the energy crisis in the Agricultural Sector.
“We hope that the task team will make urgent progress and take into account the exceptional high extent to which the dairy industry is dependent on the uninterrupted supply of electricity, as well as the important role of dairy products in respect of food security and nutrition in South Africa,” she said.
Charity organisations accepting some and not accepting some donations
Food For Life KwaDukuza currently serves more than 4 000 meals a week to community members in need. Speaking to The Citizen, Nishani Sampath – one of the cooks for the organisation – explained that they were currently struggling to store fresh food at their headquarters.
“We use a lot of frozen mix veg and right now, we can’t buy that in bulk like we use to. We can only buy as and when we need on a weekly basis and that is costing us so much more.
“We are at the point where we can’t really accept fresh veg donations from the public because we have no where to store it. We have three freezers but with more than 8 hours a day of power outages, there’s just no point. The heat-wave is also not helping the situation. We are currently only really accepting dry foods like rice and spice,” she explained.
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Daniele Diliberto – the CEO and founder of Ladles of Love – said that the organisation was accepting anything the public and food industry was willing to donate to them.
“In our case, when it comes to companies wanting to get rid of their food due to freshness or expiry, we accept everything. How it works with us is the food arrives at our warehouse. If it is no longer edible we then throw it away into our food waste system called Feed The Soil. This programme has 3 purposes. It divert food waste to the landfill and converts this food waste into compost which we give this to our community farmers for free.
“This creates a route to market for these farmers by purchasing their harvest and selling it at our depots.
“Any food that is expired, or close to expiry but still edible is checked and then distributed through our 200 soup kitchens we support around the Peninsula. However, they have to sign a form first that notifies them that the food has expired or close to expiry and that they must check it before they use it. The form also explains that they have a choice not to take the food, but if they do the responsibility becomes theirs to check it before serving,” she explained.