As the world commemorated World Food Day earlier this week, Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said it was an opportunity for South Africa to reflect on its food security and efforts to boost agricultural production.
According to Sihlobo, in 2022 South Africa ranked 59th out of 113 countries on the Economist’s Global Food Security Index and was the most food secure in Sub-Saharan Africa.
SA second best in Africa
Sihlobo said this was an improvement from the previous year’s ranking of 70th in 2021. South Africa ranked the second most food-secure country in the African continent after Morocco.
“In 2022, South Africa experienced a mild deterioration in the food affordability sub-index of seven points. Meanwhile, the rest of the other subindices improved significantly.
“This decline in the affordability sub-index is unsurprising as the country has witnessed a broad acceleration in consumer food price inflation since the start of the year. South Africa’s consumer food price inflation averaged 9.5% year on year in 2022, from 6.5% up from 2021,” he said.
Sihlobo said food inflation was also elevated in the first half of 2023, with only the second half showing moderation. “In the first eight months of this year, South Africa’s food inflation averaged at 12.2%,” he said.
A worldwide challenge
Sihlobo said the higher food inflation in the past months was a global challenge not unique to South Africa but the rest of the world, and it needed all stakeholders to come together and find lasting solutions.
“As a small, open economy, South Africa, interlinked with the world, was not insulated from these agricultural and food price shocks.
“Admittedly, South Africa was in a reasonably better place, with abundant supplies, as the La Niña weather event brought good rains across the country and supported agricultural activity. Still, the prices did not reflect the increased domestic supplies as the global shocks dominated,” he said.
Fix the loose ends
However, Sihlobo said, South Africa was in a better place regarding food security when compared with various countries in the world.
“This does not mean there should be complacency. South Africa will need to continue improving food security through expansion in agricultural production and job creation in various sectors of the economy,” he said.
Sihlobo said at a technical level, the ideas of expanding agriculture and agro-processing capacity to boost growth and job creation were well established as far back as in the National Development Plan 2012 (NDP), and were highlighted in the 2019 national treasury paper and in the 2022 Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan.
“These include expanding agricultural activity in the former homelands and government land, effective blended finance scheme, and enhancing government-commodity organisations’ partnerships in extension services.
“Investment in the network industries water, electricity and road infrastructure, port infrastructure, and state laboratories. Across the regions, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are the most food-insecure provinces, but these provinces also have vast tracts of underutilised land,” he said.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.