SOUTH AFRICA – A dairy farm in South Africa was forced to dump out thousands of litres of milk as a result of the country’s energy crisis that caused the farm’s equipment to fail.

Stratford dairy farm, based in Kwa-Zulu-Natal province, recently disposed of 11,800 litres of unpasteurized milk after the cooling systems in the farms failed because of a power outage.

The milk was a full day’s worth and the director of the farm, Ross Stratford, warned that the cost of milk could skyrocket if the energy crisis persisted.

Ross reported that the farm was supplied with insufficient amounts of power by Eskom, a South African public utility that transmits and distributes electricity, which prevented the generators to kick in at the right time and led to the fans and contractors burning out.

Much of the equipment blew out together with the cooling system and hence they could not cool the harvested milk fast enough before it spoilt. The farm lost R85,000 (US$4,947) that day, according to Ross Stratford.

The spoilt milk had to be disposed of due to the regulations put in place with regard to the quality of milk farmers are expected to sell. Milk directly from cows is supposed to be pasteurized before being sold.

The farm itself does not have the appropriate infrastructure to pasteurize milk so they harvest and sell it to processing companies who pasteurize and process it to make dairy products.

Burning out of equipment has been a constant problem causing additional costs for repairing the equipment together with the costs incurred to purchase diesel to keep the backup generators running.

“The entire supply chain is affected, but retailers want to keep the costs of milk as low as possible, to drive customers to their stores. We are unable to raise the price of milk that we sell, which means we are forced to cut costs in other aspects of our business.” Says Mr Stratford

Farmers are turning to their insurance for their equipment and because this is unsustainable, the price of milk is inevitably going to rise, eventually affecting the consumer and putting the country’s food security at risk.

Farming systems like irrigation systems are also affected which results in crop wilting. This in turn leads to insufficient feed for cattle and livestock hence reducing the amount of milk produced.

The production of milk this year was found to be below the budget by 15%, about 2.5 million litres of milk.

The energy crisis has affected other subsectors of agriculture such as the poultry industry with producers having to incur great losses due to power outages.

Reuters recently reported that Herman du Preez, owner of the Frangipani Boerdery farm, lost at least 40,000 chickens last week when a power outage knocked out his ventilation system and his chickens suffocated.

Power cuts have also slowed down operations at slaughterhouses, triggering chicken shortages, said Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of the South African Poultry Association.

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