Cable Theft Threatens Joburg Fresh Produce

Thieves have taken advantage of load-shedding to steal cables leaving many businesses including the Joburg market unable to operate.

“The lack of electricity has a disastrous impact on the quality and safety of agricultural products,” complained Christo van der Rheede, executive director at Agri SA.

The cable thefts occurred on Tuesday.

On Friday morning Van der Rheede said electricity had still not been restored.

“This is unacceptable for a market that provides agricultural products to 15 million people daily,” said Van der Rheede.

“Agri SA appeals to the Johannesburg City mayor and council to do everything in their power to restore electricity supply to the Joburg market.

“And to put the necessary security measures in place to prevent the theft of electricity cables in future.”

During power outages, the market does not have the ability to supply power to the cold storage rooms.

“This has resulted in these storage rooms operating without cooling since Tuesday with disastrous consequences to agricultural products,” said Van der Rheede

“The value of stock in these cold rooms amounts to between R30million and R61million rand.”

“The temperature in cold rooms should be running at 2°C.

“Due to a lack of electricity, the temperature is currently above 10°C and it is compromising the freshness and quality of products relying on cold storage tremendously.”

Van der Rheede said ripening rooms have the same issue.

“Ripening cycles are totally compromised resulting in massive losses to producers due to poor ripening quality … The losses by producers are estimated at around R500 000 per day,” said the Agri SA executive.

“The market has generators that can only supply power to sales areas.

“At night these generators are switched off and agents have to then run their own generators to provide lighting.

“This poses serious safety consequences as working in darkness is dangerous and compromises worker safety.”

Cable theft is an ongoing occurrence in the City.

Van der Rheede said during recent meetings additional security at critical areas where cable theft is a regular occurrence, was requested.

He said Agri SA was calling for “immediate action” and for City officials to restore the power to the Johannesburg market.

“Compromising the safety and quality of agricultural products is in contravention of the Agricultural Products Standards Act,” warned Van der Rheede.

He said urgent intervention by the City to restore, maintain and protect the electricity supply to the Johannesburg market was required.

“Producers pay 5% of all sales over to the City of Johannesburg, which amounts to R450 million per annum,” said Van der Rheede, adding that they expect in return that the market is kept in a good operational state.

Meanwhile, thousands of complaints have been lodged with City Power by irate Johannesburg residents whose electricity is still off long after their scheduled load -shedding has ended.

Traffic lights that are not working – City Power says it is struggling to turn the electricity back on after load-shedding – causing havoc on Johannesburg’s wet roads.

City Power is blaming Eskom for the delayed resumption of power supplies to affected areas.

Eskom says it has downgraded load-shedding from Stage 4 to Stage 2.

Stage 2 load shedding means that up to 2000MW of capacity needs to be shed. Consumers can expect to be shed up to 6 times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or 6 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.