Saturday, September 26, 2020

Manufacturers hit by power cuts

Rolling electricity cuts by the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), the national power utility company, have adversely affected manufactures and, ultimately, affecting the economy.

Many manufacturing companies have raised alarm over this prevailing situation, citing serious losses in business. Power cuts have been occurring with greater frequency for the past two weeks and are coming up so frequently now that manufacturers cannot assess the losses they are suffering.

“It is more than a mild effect to us; we manufacture mine equipment and we have missed our targets and our manufacturing equipment is computer based and the power cuts are affecting the whole process,” said Lovemore Diya, Marketing Manager of Gaborone Hydraulics.

An IKEA Operations manager added, “Power cuts have badly affected our production; we have not been able to manufacture for two consecutive days and we suffered a loss equivalent to about 100 gas stoves.”

The BPC warned earlier last week that unscheduled maintenance of its infrastructure might lead to load shedding across the country in coming weeks. BPC has said the situation is what it is now because of a number of challenges that include the recent heat wave, which has put pressure on power supply and has affected the region.

Unplanned maintenance by Eskom and the Morupule power plant, which has now reached its ceiling and cannot generate more power. As a result, power shortages have more than doubled, making it difficult to perform load shedding without affecting the majority of businesses.

“We are very concerned about the frequency of the outages; they are disrupting different sectors, causing a loss of production and products,” said Sithembile Dube, Acting Director, Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA).

Dube said the regular power cuts have been a thorn in the flesh for Botswana economic growth, as intermittent power cuts continue to hamper production across all sectors.

“We can’t put in number the impact at the moment but certainly the impact of these power cuts reflects badly on the economy,” said economist, Dr Keith Jeffries. “This affects the growth of the economy and it has become difficult to talk of economic growth now without addressing power shortage.”

He said a scenario such as this that the country is facing depicts a serious failure of long time planning.

Jefferies said the food industry is particularly faced with a serious loss as they deal mostly with perishables.

The Operations manager of Sally Dairy Company, Ajith Weerasege, said that last week they threw away 4000 liters of milk, which had gone bad due to power shortages.

“The losses we are experiencing are unimaginable,” said Weerasege.

Jefferies said manufacturing companies that are exporting are really affected and risk losing both local and international markets by failing to meet their quotas.

In a communiqu├® released by the Botswana Chamber Of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM), members of BOCCIM are advised to be prepared for a challenging month ahead and to ensure that they have the right backup systems, generators and facilities installed to ensure business continuity.

“The power shortages have caused inconveniences and, in some instances, this has negatively affected the daily operations of business for both SMME’s and large corporations,” said Maria Machailo-Ellis, CEO BOCCIM.

Machailo-Ellis said they are hoping government is planning to implement strategies that will ensure long term sustainable and secure energy supply. More importantly is that government will engage the business community in the intended strategies and make them part of the solution going forward.

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