By Bernard Mpofu
Zimbabwe Stock Exchange agro-based company, Ariston, says it is studying the feasibility of installing a solar plant at its largest tea growing estate after raising concerns that sales would suffer due to the current power cuts, casting a chill on its export earnings.
Local firms and domestic consumers of electricity are enduring long hours of darkness, prompting some to turn to alternative sources of energy such as diesel-powered generators and solar power plants.
Ariston, which exports macadamia and tea, has raised the red flag over the rolling power cuts. The company is now considering installing a solar-powered plant at its tea estate.
“The largest constraint remaining for the group is the incessant power outages which negatively affects the group’s ability to irrigate orchards, affecting tea leaf availability and quality, ‘’ Rufaro Chinamo, the company’s secretary said in a trading update.
“The group is currently evaluating the installation of a solar power generation plant at the largest of its tea growing estates to counter the negative effects of power outages.”
Tea production volumes for the first quarter were 5% down to 800,000 kg from 850, 000 kg same period last year due to power cuts and the El Nino-induced drought.
According to a survey conducted by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce last December before the current fuel increases, a typical business entity is losing around US$162,443 in annual sales due to persistent power outages.
The country is currently facing prolonged power cuts lasting up to 18 hours daily due to low levels at Kariba (hydro) Power Station, corruption, limited investment in the energy sector and staggering domestic debts.
The survey further highlighted that the energy crisis had reached catastrophic levels as each business entity was losingZW$20,000 (about US$1, 000) worth of production output and ZW$30,000 (about US$1,500) in sales monthly.
The study found that on average, each business entity uses 22 litres per day to power its economic activities when there are power outages on any particular day.