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SA is the most food-secure country in Africa

SA is the most food-secure country in Africa

South Africa is the most food-secure country in Africa, according to the latest Economist's Global Food Security Index,

While there were admirable results for food security at a national level in South Africa, there was still a need for massive improvement at the household level, agricultural Business Chamber chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said yesterday.

This as the latest Economist's Global Food Security Index, a measure of the food security conditions of surveyed countries relative to the world, ranked South Africa at 59 out of 113 countries, an improvement from the 70th position last year. This placed South Africa as the most food-secure country in the African continent, followed by Tunisia at 62nd.

However, he said the agriculture sector could not solely shoulder the responsibility of household food insecurity since there was a need for an economy-wide approach, which included reforms to stimulate job creation.

“Fundamentally, a critical part of the improvement in food security will have to be through expansion in agricultural production and job creation in various sectors of the economy. This was evident in the National Development Plan as far back as 2012.

This view was again highlighted in the 2019 National Treasury paper and, most recently, in the 2022 Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan.

“The clear focus on agriculture across all these policy documents is largely motivated by the understanding that, on average, growth in agriculture is more poverty-reducing than an equivalent amount of growth outside agriculture,” Sihlobo said.

Growth in South African agriculture would have to come through the expansion of agricultural activity in the former homelands and government land, enhancing government-commodity organisations' partnerships in extension services, investment in the network industries such as water, electricity and road infrastructure, port infrastructure and state laboratories.

But without significant improvement in the road, rail, water, electricity and ports, the transaction costs to markets for farmers would remain elevated, thereby affecting the sustainability of businesses.

Agbiz said this put the Land Reform and Agricultural Development Agency, first announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year and more recently in the State of the Nation Address earlier this year, at the centre of the policy coordination.

Agbiz said the ANC's policy papers also emphasised this agency as a potential vehicle for land reform.

“However, they offered limited insight into how the agency should operate, a function that was probably left for the government bureaucrats to outline. To ensure its effectiveness, we think the agency should ideally focus on the land redistribution pillar.”

The National Agricultural Marketing Council’s Markets and Economic Research Centre’s Food Basket Price Monthly released last month showed that in September, the food items with the highest price disparities between urban and rural areas were maize meal at a price difference of R5.72, a loaf of white bread at R1.31, peanut butter at R0.97, a loaf of brown bread at R0.87 and bananas at R0.85. This showed that, on average, urban consumers spent R0.30 more on these 11 food items.

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