Poultry Association of Zambia (PAZ) chairperson Veronica Machungwa says any power tariff increment will lead to mass unemployment as farmers will be unable to hold onto their employees, amidst higher input costs.

Last Tuesday, Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa said Zesco’s proposed power tariff hike would be effected without the Cost of Service Study because the power utility was “bleeding”.

He also announced that the fuel pump price would be reviewed following the kwacha’s sharp depreciation, which hit the K15 per dollar mark, Thursday.

Commenting on the looming price increments, Machungwa said these would exacerbate business conditions in the country as the market was not willing to accept a new burdensome cost.

“It’s definitely going to affect the feed prices and even the feed growers; everybody in farming will be affected. First and foremost, we have a situation where we don’t have enough power and the little power that we have has been increased! So, we will have been hit double; first, you can’t produce as much as you want because you can’t get enough water in order to water what you want, then to take it to the market it is now going cost twice what it originally costs you,” Machungwa said in an interview in Lusaka.

“And the market is not yet willing to take the new price hike. So, it’s going to make life very, very difficult! What they should also realize is that it’s also going to cause a very high rate of unemployment because a lot of farmers will not be able to pay their workers. You are working one-third of the time because for 18 to 19 hours, you have no power, power comes back at midnight, at 5am, it’s gone. What are you supposed to do with six hours of power at ungodly hours?”

She predicted a gloomy economic outlook should the electricity and fuel price increments be implemented.

“It’s going to be very difficult to survive! If they think now is good, give them another six months, this place is going to be so difficult to survive in. So, basically, what it is doing, the economy is going to contract because it’s not only going to be the farmers, even the factories are unable to produce at the same rate they have been producing. With the weakening of the kwacha and strengthening of the dollar makes things so difficult to go on. So, I don’t know where they are headed to? I don’t know whether what their economists are doing? What I see is very gloomy future! For me, there seems to be no future at all! There is no light at the end of the tunnel, even the tunnel has been taken,” said Machungwa.