When South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation on July 12 amid violence and destruction of property in components of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, he warned of a number of dangers if the scenario was not resolved swiftly. One among them was meals safety.
Loads has been written concerning the acts of criminality and the disregard for the rule of legislation that’s swept components of the nation. Consideration has additionally been given to the underlying elements that make the South African society so fragile. These embrace rising unemployment, inequality, corruption and poor service supply.
In mild of the continued state of turbulence it’s vital to take a better have a look at meals safety points.
South Africa is mostly a safe meals nation at a nationwide stage. On prime of this it’s a internet exporter of agricultural and processed meals merchandise. Final yr agricultural exports reached the second-highest stage on document of US$10.2 billion following a beneficial manufacturing season.
However meals safety is about extra than simply having ample provides. It additionally requires meals accessibility, affordability, diet and stability over time.
That is the place the problem lies.
Continued disruption will have an effect on provides given the specifics of South Africa’s meals provide chains. KwaZulu-Natal, the epicentre of rioting and looting, is a significant producer of assorted agricultural merchandise resembling sugar, milk and poultry merchandise. The province additionally serves as an entry for imported meals merchandise, together with wheat, rice, poultry merchandise, and palm oils. Gauteng, the opposite province additionally most affected, is without doubt one of the main meals processing hubs.
Nevertheless, South Africa’s meals provide chains are usually not concentrated in a single explicit province. The largest threat within the brief time period is the free motion of products, together with meals and agricultural produce on the roads, particularly to and from the Durban port, the entry and exit level for agricultural imports and exports.
The opposite threat pertains to elevated revenue poverty due to the destruction of companies.
Meals manufacturing and consumption
In the identical yr as document manufacturing figures, the nation skilled a rise in starvation, as recognized within the Nationwide Revenue Dynamics Examine – Coronavirus Fast Cellular Survey (NIDS-CRAM).. However this wasn’t essentially a difficulty of meals scarcity or a speedy improve in meals costs. It was largely as a result of folks had been out of labor and had diminished means to purchase meals.
In 2021, South Africa once more loved one other season of an considerable harvest following beneficial summer season rainfalls. Which means that there are unlikely to be meals shortages this yr, however somewhat ample provides for native consumption and export markets. This can be true for main grains, fruits, meat and varied merchandise.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t imply everybody within the nation is meals safe. Or that costs gained’t rise quickly.
There are long-standing challenges with revenue poverty in South Africa and the extent to which the poorest individuals are capable of afford nutritious meals. Nonetheless, meals costs have solely risen negligibly. South Africa’s client meals worth inflation was at 6.8% yr on yr in Might 2021, from 6.7% yr on yr in April, in response to knowledge from Statistics South Africa. This isn’t an alarmist charge as we have now seen double-digit inflation charges in years of drought resembling 2016, the place client meals worth inflation averaged 10.8% yr on yr.
The expectation is that client meals worth inflation might in reality soften within the second half of 2021.
Subsequently, Ramaphosa’s emphasis on the dangers to meals safety in his tackle on July 12 was primarily targeted on KwaZulu-Natal. The primary problem is a disruption because of the looting spree, forcing corporations to keep away from unstable areas in order to not expose their property and workers to hazard. It’s removed from clear how lengthy the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal will final.
Menacingly, nobody can inform with certainty if waves of protest won’t spill over to different provinces in ways in which disrupt enterprise and provide chains and have an effect on livelihoods. If the wave of violent protests continues unabated, it might pose a threat to meals safety, with the poorest folks most affected as their employment and livelihoods will endure. Small companies particularly may be compelled to shut given the dimensions of the persevering with violence.
However South Africans in different components of the nation that haven’t seen outbreaks of looting and violence mustn’t panic about potential meals shortages.
KwaZulu-Natal has been essentially the most affected by the violence. However the province isn’t the epicentre of agriculture within the nation. It isn’t an anchor to the South African meals system. Provinces in central South Africa – the Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Limpopo – maintain way more key positions. That is due to their considerable agricultural manufacturing and meals processing capability.
Maize meal and wheat flour – each staple to most South African diets – are primarily produced within the Free State, Mpumalanga, North West and the Western Cape. These provinces account for over 60% of manufacturing of every of those grains, and course of over 50% of them.
KwaZulu-Natal processes roughly 8% of the 11.5 million tonnes of maize consumed in South Africa every year. In wheat, KwaZulu-Natal processes roughly 21% of the annual consumption. The numbers differ per product, however the level right here is that meals provide chains are usually not concentrated in a single explicit province.
There isn’t any threat of meals scarcity presently from different anchor provinces. However the threat comes when there isn’t a gasoline for transport throughout the nation, given the power majeure that the refinery in Durban has declared. It’s South Africa’s largest refinery, accounting for 35% of the nation’s refining capability.
I spotlight this as a result of a big share of South Africa’s meals is transported by street.
Within the case of commerce, the present disruptions weigh much more closely on companies and farmers in agriculture. On common, 75% of the nation’s grains are transported by street yearly. These are largely exported by means of the Durban harbour. The identical is true for imported meals merchandise resembling rice, wheat and palm oil, amongst different merchandise. The volumes are additionally massive for horticulture, particularly citrus, a number one exportable agricultural product in South Africa.
The burning of vehicles on the roads and the blocked routes to the ports will show expensive to companies and hurt South Africa’s status as a world provider in varied worth chains. This may also negatively have an effect on the province’s meals provide chains.
This wants pressing intervention, particularly as agricultural merchandise are perishable and the nation is getting into an export interval for citrus in a yr of a document harvest.
As South African authorities grapple with attaining stability, there must be a deeper introspection about guaranteeing that the nation creates an setting conducive for companies to thrive. And that it addresses the social ills that underlie instability and disrespect for the rule of legislation.
Within the close to time period, South Africans mustn’t panic concerning the meals system. However authorities might want to act swiftly and assertively to revive stability.