NWK is desperate for power supply to be restored

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Epko, NWK’s sunflower oil crushing plant in Lichtenburg, has been unable to produce since 2 August due to a large-scale power outage that left the plant with as little as eight hours of electricity on some days.

This plant, with the ability to crush 600 tons of seeds per day to produce 210 tons of crude oil, is at a standstill because certain residential areas are being supplied with power for only four hours at a time, before being disconnected in order to supply another part of town with electricity.

It all began with a transformer that broke down on 27 July. Eskom and Ditsobotla Local Municipality could only restore power to a certain part of town. Since Wednesday, 2 August, rotational load shedding slots of four hours each are being implemented to allow all residents to at least have a few hours of power each day.

Read more about current sunflower production trends.

Despite this, Lichtenburg is not being exempt from national load shedding, resulting in even longer power outages. A new transformer has been installed, but Eskom is refusing to restore power to the entire town until Ditsobotla pays at least R123,5 million of its debt to the power supplier. Ditsobotla owes Eskom approximately R1 billion in total. “It is a nightmare,” Adriaan Oosthuysen, financial manager of Epko, described the situation. “After a power outage, we have to allow two hours for the pipeline to be cleared in order for us to resume production.

The process is also halted a while before an outage to prevent damage to machinery. “It is therefore not feasible to produce in such a short timeframe.” Should the plant produce with the help of generators, it will absorb 90% of the profits due to the high fuel costs.” Epko has already lost more than R53,5 million between 1 May 2022 and 30 April 2023 due to load shedding. “The costs are astronomical.”

“The money could have been used to expand other business segments,” Theo Rabe, group CEO of NWK, said. “The entire business community in Lichtenburg is suffering as a result and smaller businesses might have to close their doors. Not to mention residents who, despite paying for electricity as well as tax, are being inconvenienced by this.”

In the past financial year, NWK has spent R46,7 million on alternative methods of power generation at its head office and retail outlet in Lichtenburg, as well as its silo complexes in Delareyville, Ottosdal and Sannieshof. An additional R21,3 million has been spent on fuel for generators.– Press release, NWK

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