Poultry Association of Zambia (PAZ) chairperson Veronica Machungwa says an increase in electricity tariffs will greatly push up the cost of living in the country.

Last week, Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAM) vice president Chipego Zulu said Zesco should consider a short-term electricity tariff hike for the purpose of importing power to cushion the current deficit as load-shedding was having a negative impact on manufacturers who now have to find other sources of energy, which is unsustainable due to the high costs.

But in an interview, Machungwa cautioned that hiking electricity tariffs would push up the cost of doing business in the country even further.

“Naturally, you push power [tariffs] up, you push up everything that is being produced through the use of electricity. Anyone producing eggs, they need power to be able to produce that. Everything goes up; that is the consequence and the spiral effect of the increase of everything. We don’t have a choice and people will have to pay extra for everything around them,” Machungwa said.

“So, it is not going to sit very nicely with people, and I can tell you now it doesn’t even have to be about a certain class; it just affects everybody across the board and in any case, even if you increase tariffs, where is that power? People don’t even have that so-called power anywhere! At the end of the day, the power utility will have no money because people are having no electricity half a day…”

She also expressed doubt that the importation of power was going to sort out the power crisis the country is facing.

Last week, Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa said that Zambia will this week start importing power from South African power utility, ESKOM, at a cost of US $13.5 million, adding that with the inclusion of transmission charges, the cost will go to US $21 million.

Nkhuwa added that the importation of power from ESKOM would cushion and reduce load shedding hours from at least eight to six hours.

“You know, the question that I would like to be answered for me is that, they were talking about importing power at $13 million and, really, I find that hard to believe. Yes, they are saying they will cut (load-shedding) from eight hours to six hours, but I already have 10 hours! So, I don’t know who they’ll cut for eight hours? Maybe those who’ll be cut for eight hours will enjoy the six hours,” Machungwa observed.

“But if they say they are cutting form eight to six, it means for me, they are cutting from 10 to eight because I am already at 10 hours. It makes no difference. I have nothing happening the whole day! I get power when my workers are knocking off so I have had to reschedule the working hours of my people in order to be able to grow anything with irrigation. I am having my workers coming here at night because during the day, we can’t work because there is nothing happening.”

Meanwhile, Machungwa called for the establishment of other alternatives sources of power.

“So, we have to be looking at other alternative sources of energy. I think it is about time that everyone looks to alternative energy because I don’t think we can rely on Zesco. And even Zesco do not have a choice because, really, as far as I know, Kariba [Dam] is gone! The Kariba has no water and it’s still no fault of theirs. I have always insisted that probably that we should have the environment people to come out more strongly for people to begin to replant trees. Let us try and get this place to what it used to be, let us have more trees so that we can combat this climate and global warming,” said Machungwa.