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Food security is a particular concern in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also a global issue, as talks between the G20 countries in Stockholm this week on food prices plainly show.
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation head, José Graziano da Silva, said the rise in food prices was not a crisis, but could be next year if harvests in the southern hemisphere were disappointing. He pleaded for co-ordinated action against it.
So a crisis is that close, dependent on many variables, including weather. In recent years we have seen food riots in at least 12 countries.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Food Security Index 2012, this part of Africa is the most food insecure region in the world. It ranked South Africa 40th out of 105 countries. The next African country was Botswana, at 47th. Other neighbours fared far worse.
The study found that world food prices had risen twice as fast as inflation in the last decade. While the world was richer and better fed than 50 years ago, these gains were under threat.
Food security has become very much part of South Africa’s political conversation in the light of land redistribution. It has caused jitters in the farming community, and spawned warnings aplenty.
South Africa is not food secure, many people remain hungry. But our government has pledged its commitment to it. And the ANC, in spurning calls for land grabs, has said land redistribution must be compatible with food production and security.
This is why the government must guard against even a whiff of anything that places our food security at further risk. Proposed new licence fees for agricultural machinery, reported in the Daily News on Wednesday, plainly do.
Astonishing increases, published for comment by the Ministry of Transport in June and potentially ruinous to many farmers, have drawn a lot of criticism. The new minister, Ben Martins, would be well advised to consider it carefully.