HARARE, August 21 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector is collectively losing nearly $5 million per month due to power shortages, a government official has revealed.
Zimbabwe is battling to plug a huge energy deficit due to limited investment in the capital intensive energy sector. The country requires about 2,200 megawatts daily, but currently generates only 1,300MW resulting in rolling power cuts that have hit hard on agriculture, manufacturing and mining sectors.
Ringson Chitsiko, the secretary for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, told delegates to a farmers’ indaba this week that the persisting power shortages in the sector have forced many farmers to abandon the production of strategic crops such as wheat.
He said in the case of wheat, which is a strategic food crop, while the national requirement is 450,000 tonnes annually, the country is only able to produce 12 percent of demand with the remainder being met through imports of unprocessed wheat and wheat flour.
“This limited production capacity is increasingly being undermined by unreliable power supply for irrigation. The crop, being entirely dependent on irrigation, faces the high risks associated with power cuts and its production decreased from 324,000 tonnes in 2000 to less than 60,000 tonnes in 2014 on the back of a reduction in funding from financial institutions, potential contractors and even Government due to power shortages. Many farmers are now abandoning production of the crop. But this is not without a cost to the nation.”
The total energy consumption in Zimbabwe between 2011 and 2015 has ranged between 7,939.8001 gigawatts hour (GWh) and 8,891.8320 GWh.
The agriculture sector consumes six percent, or 467.823 GWh of the national requirement, said Chitsiko.
National energy consumption is expected to fall from 8, 891.8320 GWh in 2014 to 8,253.7068 GWh this year while that for the agricultural sector is predicted to decrease to 442.982 GWh, about five percent of total consumption.
“The reduction in consumption implies a reduction in agricultural activity,” said Chitsiko.
Studies have shown that the opportunity cost of not producing and importing stands at $237 million per annum and 22 percent of the figure $52 million is attributed to power challenges, he said.
“Collectively, the agricultural sector is losing nearly $5 million per month due to power shortages.”