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World Water Day – water and energy interplay a risk to food security in SA

World Water Day – water and energy interplay a risk to food security in SA

Johannesburg. 22 March 2023. Tiger Brands is bringing into focus the critical relationship between water and energy and its impact on food security this World Water Day, commemorated today, Wednesday, 22 March 2023.

South Africans are dealing with daily loadshedding between Stages 4 and 6 since the start of the year with little indication of it easing soon, and a national state of disaster declared to address the situation.

Prolonged and regular loadshedding is also leading to an increase in water infrastructure failures and supply disruptions across South Africa. Intermittent power cuts are a threat to the country’s water supply as energy is required to move it through the system for use.

The entire food sector value chain is reliant on water, from growing crops to manufacturing food items and distributing it for end-consumer use.

South Africa is a water-stressed country with dwindling levels of a finite resource driven by climate change and exacerbated by water infrastructure challenges and slow expansion to feed the increased demand from a growing population. South Africa’s 2018 National Water and Sanitation Master Plan indicates that the world’s 25th most populous country could face a water supply-demand gap of 17% by 2030.

It is crucial for business, particularly those that offer essential services or goods, such as the food sector to plan for minimal disruption to operations.

Tiger Brands, South Africa’s largest food manufacturer, will invest capital in excess of R35 million in infrastructure, including an increase in on-site water storage capacity, at its manufacturing facilities to mitigate the adverse impact of loadshedding on municipal water supply. This forms part of a R120-million capital investment to ensure Tiger Brands’ business continuity at loadshedding Stages 6-8, ensuring the company continues to fulfil the food security role it plays in South Africa.

“Loadshedding brings an entirely new and added threat to water availability in the country since energy drives water flow and without power, our taps run the risk of running dry.

“The ability for an organisation such as Tiger Brands to provide essential food items to consumers is obstructed if loadshedding persists and the need for more energy to be shed escalates”, says Derek McKernan, Chief Manufacturing Officer, Tiger Brands.    

“Our multi-million-rand investment will offer some level of surety that store shelves will remain stocked with essential food items during prolonged high levels of loadshedding.”

At a community level, Tiger Brands is supporting the Ashton municipality in the Western Cape with generators and expertise to ensure water supply for the town, as well as the Langeberg and Ashton Foods manufacturing facility which is reliant on water for the timeous processing of fresh fruit.  

Reducing water intensity across the business

Mitigating the impact of loadshedding on water supply is only one part of Tiger Brands’ all-inclusive approach to minimising its impact on the environment and ensuring the country’s water resources stretch further for longer.  

“Considering the enormity of the national water crisis we face as a country and that water is a shared resource, it is imperative that we address the challenge holistically.

“As a business, we take our responsibility to minimise our impact on the environment by reducing the intensity of our water usage very seriously,” says McKernan

A 2030 target under its Sustainable Future strategy commits Tiger Brands to reducing its water intensity by 30% by actively identifying and implementing water-use reduction initiatives across its sites, as well as cultivating a culture of water stewardship amongst employees. During the financial year that ended 30 September 2022, the company achieved a 7,1% year-on-year reduction in water-use intensity across its operations.


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