* Small businesses forced to use costly generators
* S.Africa suffered unprecedented power losses this week
* Problems at power utility Eskom threaten economy
By Kara van der Berg and Onke Ngcuka
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 11 (Reuters) - When South Africa suffered unprecedented power cuts this week as flooding slashed thousands of megawatts off an overstretched grid, bakery owner Maike Vandereydt-Speer was unable to brew coffee, toast sandwiches or even switch on the lights.
One of her two bakeries already has a generator — which costs at least 3,000 rand ($200) a day to run — but she had balked at the cost of installing one at the Black Forest bakery in the leafy Johannesburg suburb of Parkmore. Now she is considering it.
“If we do not have a generator we basically close down,” she told Reuters. “We hope the business can survive. We are hoping that (the power cuts) won’t last forever but we have a feeling now that it’s more serious than we think.”
Vandereydt-Speer said she loses 1,000 rand a day when there are power cuts.
A week of floods has aggravated problems at state-owned utility Eskom, which has been struggling to keep the lights on since 2008, triggering unprecedented levels of planned power cuts known locally as ‘load shedding’.
“It’s devastating, absolutely devastating,” said the CEO of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce, Joan Warburton-McBride. “Especially at this time of the year when small traders were hoping for a turnaround to a very bleak year.”
Economic fallout from the power blackouts is widespread with large-scale mining companies shutting down across South Africa on Monday, but they are better placed to weather the storm than more fragile smaller businesses.
“Every single part of our business works on electricity, so having a generator was not even a question,” said Johannesburg locksmith Boris Milwidsky. However, his generator is unable to produce enough power to run all of his machines, meaning he is unable to fulfil orders promptly.
He estimated his losses from the purchase of costly generator fuel and lost output at around 60,000-70,000 rand a day, but declined to say what his revenues were.
“I’m busy, especially this time of the year. Half of my machines I can’t use as the generator can’t fuel everything,” he said.
($1 = 14.7075 rand)
Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Kirsten Donovan