Rolling power cuts in South Africa are set to cause problems for harvesting.

Fearing the effects the power cuts could have on harvesting and vinifiction processes, local winemaking body Wine Cellars of South Africa has appealed for the times of the power outages to be moved from daytime to early morning or evening.

The cuts are caused by the national grid not coping with sharply rising demand.

‘We can’t estimate losses during harvest 2008, as we don’t know the load-shedding [power cut] frequency. And it depends on how many cellars have generators,’ WCSA chairperson Henk Bruwer told a local paper.

But Bruwer warned that if grapes are allowed to heat up during the day, more energy would be used cooling them down again, than would be spent keeping them cool in the first place.

The harvest in Cape area, where daytime temperatures can range anywhere from 20 to 35 degrees centigrade, has started in certain regions and many wineries have already bought generators, however these are expensive to buy and run.

WCSA, which is responsible for 80% of SA wine volumes, has also suggested that South African state utility Eskom buy generators and install them at wineries to reduce costs.

‘The wine industry is the biggest agricultural contributor to the balance of payments in South Africa. We had R3.5bn in 2007 in exports, and we will exceed that figure in 2008,’ said Bruwer, explaining why winemakers should be helped.

Written by Sophie Kevany