GEORGE NEWS - The negative impact of load shedding on some manufacturers in George will be discussed with Eskom and George Municipality at a meeting on 18 February.
According to George Business Chamber president Dennis Farrell, local manufacturing plants are under pressure because of load shedding.
"They are at a point where they need more stability in their supply. Their electricity usage peaks when power is turned back on, leading to electricity costs escalating at an impossibly high rate. We have approached Eskom and the municipality to discuss the issue."
Amec Plastics owner Kobus Botha said they lost a few hundred thousand rand in December because of load shedding. "We manufacture plastic bags for the fruit export industry and our service has to be super dependable. We employ 100 people and I do not know how long we can keep up paying their wages during load shedding. The other problem is that after standing idle for two and a half hours, our machines take an hour to reheat to the correct temperature. They run at 200°C. We have 14 lines that must be started up individually."
To run the plant on a generator would require an investment of R1,8-million, which they cannot afford.
They would like to request the municipality to consider keeping their power turned on during load shedding to maintain machine temperature. He said some municipalities like Cape Town are very accommodating towards manufacturers, but they have been struggling to be heard in George.
"If we do not get relief, we might consider moving our plant."
Farrell said the chamber has had talks with a number of big businesses affected in this way and has taken up the matter with Eskom locally, who has escalated it to their head-office. "It is an ongoing battle. If large manufacturers pack up and leave, the impact of retrenchments will be huge."
George electrotechnical director Paul Gerber said the George Municipality does not have electricity to distribute during load shedding as it does not generate its own electricity, but it is looking at possibilities in this regard to assist certain businesses during load shedding. Except for metros and a few others, municipalities in South Africa do not generate electricity.
A number of smaller businesses such as George Staal en Sweis, Loerie Bakery, Tiger Wheel and Tyre, Weldon, Rademeyer and Tiran Optometrists and Geronimo Spur, said they rely on generators. The high cost of diesel is a detrimental factor, though.
Len Clark of Touw Meubels said he tries to plan around load shedding to keep his staff productive by sending out a bigger installation team to sites where he knows the power is on. "I move lunch hour around and use [specialist] staff for other tasks that do not require such expensive labour, but at least they are not doing nothing."
Garden Route Mall Manager Rion Olivier said by 7 February they would have the last six of their 12 generators installed and then all shops (excluding McDonald's) will be open during load shedding.
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