SA falls behind on food indicators

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South Africa's scores have fallen consecutively for the past two years, despite the fact that it is a leader in food security in Africa. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - Despite the fact that it is a leader in food security on the continent, South Africa’s food affordability indicators have declined consecutively for the past two years.

The DuPont-Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Food Security Index, which was first published in 2012, showed that this year South Africa scored 57.9 out of 100 index points on affordability, a decrease of 2.9 index points from last year.

South Africa still ranked the highest in the sub-Saharan region in terms of food affordability but the scores of countries such as Botswana, Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire, which followed South Africa, have been on an upward trend.

For instance, South Africa’s affordability scores respectively declined from 61 and 60.8 points in 2012 and last year.

Botswana’s score, on the other hand, increased from 54 points to 55. Even the most food-insecure nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo, improved its food affordability indicator from 12.9 points in 2012 and 2013 to 16 this year.

“It’s a reflection of [South Africa’s] GDP [gross domestic product] per capita. If the economy is not growing, inflation is high, which is the case in South Africa, it’s expensive and affordability is one category that will be affected,” said Pat Thaker, EIU’s director of Middle East and Africa, during the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association academic symposium in Cape Town yesterday.

South Africa’s GDP per capita, the indicator of countries’ standards of living, had fallen by 1.6 points when EIU compared this year’s index to last year’s.

The country’s food consumption as a share of household expenditure had worsened by 12.8 index points.

According to the last National Agricultural Marketing Council (Namc) food price monitor last month, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa had the highest food inflation in the year between April 2013 and April 2014. South Africa’s food inflation was 7.8 percent, significantly above the consumer price index of 6.1 percent over that period.

But Namc expected the country’s food inflation to decline between this month and August as the international prices of grains and oilseeds had fallen and South Africa was following suit.

The EIU index measured 109 countries against 28 food security indicators.

Food affordability had a weighting of 40 percent while the weighting for availability was 44 percent and 16 percent for food quality and safety.

Thaker pointed out that the southern Africa region still had the best scores in the sub-Saharan zone and this was driven by South Africa.

South Africa’s food availability score had improved by 0.5 points and, even though quality and safety indicators had declined by 0.4 points, the country still led the entire sub-Sahara in food quality and safety at 57.5 points.

The quality and safety indicator was negatively affected by the decrease in the percentage of people with access to potable water. “Yes South Africa doesn’t score as strongly on affordability, that’s because you still have a great population sitting on the poverty line,” Thaker added.

The sub-Saharan Africa region’s overall food security score stood at 36.1 points this year, the lowest of all regional scores and two-thirds the score of the Asia-Pacific region.

One of the biggest challenges in the region had been the lack of agricultural research and development (R&D).

South Africa was a leader in R&D investment in the region but its investment was still not as strong when compared to its peer groups across the world, said Thaker. - Business Report


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