File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

SA tops global food security index on continent, but affordability still low

By Silindile Nyathikazi Time of article published Mar 8, 2021

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Cape Town – South Africa has ranked the highest in food security out of 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), but affordability still remained low.

The 2020 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) report released yesterday indicated that while the country still performs well in terms of the general availability of food in the country, SA’s global ranking still fell from 67th to 69th, out of 113 countries.

Using a new methodology which analyses food systems’ resilience against climate change, the report highlighted already stark and growing inequalities regarding access to food across the country.

“The lack of food safety net programmes or effective food safety net programmes has been a main driver of this decrease, as well as increasing costs of food. Overall, food affordability deteriorated, partly due to food price inflation and loss of income due to the pandemic.

“The Covid-19 pandemic, which has exposed existing vulnerabilities in the global food system, is likely to exacerbate food needs,” said business director for Corteva Agriscience Southern Africa, Tony Esmeraldo.

The report further indicated that “when it comes to the quality and safety of food, which remains a challenge in SSA, South Africa ranked number one, while on affordability and availability it came in second and ninth positions respectively.”

“Although South Africa fared better than other countries in SSA, food inadequacy and hunger are still a challenge.

’’The Covid-19 pandemic has also exposed the extent of how poverty-stricken households, who are vulnerable to economic shocks, are battling with lack of money to buy food and the inability to produce their own food,” said Esmeraldo.

Responding to the report, the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD) said the findings of the report “made sense” given that the country does not have a problem with food production.

“The question is not whether or not there is food available, that we know already. The question is about the access to food especially in the context of a market based economy like ours.

’’Access to food is based on affordability and we are scoring low on that front because people do not have money to buy food.

“The imminent fuel increase will see food prices further increasing and we will see more people go hungry because we know the most of our money goes to buying food,” said PMBEJD’s programme coordinator, Mervyn Abrahams.

Abrahams also said government has made the food situation worse through the “scandalous increases on social grants which many people depend on”.

“The budget of 2021 is not a pro-poor budget because it is way below inflation. The cost of a basic food basket remains exceptionally high and we know that people will be spending more on electricity given the increases that are also coming.”

Consumer specialist and rights activist Ina Wilken said it was also worth noting that “we are no longer at the top in terms of food security in Africa and our scores further dropped when compared to 2019”.

“I am glad to hear that globally we have done so well but we still need to look a little deeper at the challenges facing the country.

’’The closure of small businesses, job losses mean that more people are becoming dependent on grants which is not enough to support people and their families,” said Wilken.

Among Sub-Saharan African countries, South Africa ranks first followed by Botswana (74), Ghana (77), Mali (79), and Cote d'Ivoire (82). Finland (85.3), Ireland (83.8) and Netherlands (79.9) scored the highest among the 113 countries assessed.

Overall food security in South Africa has deteriorated inthe past few years. Graphic supplied by Corteva Agriscience Southern Africa
Globally, food security has been on the decline since 2018. Graphic supplied by Corteva Agriscience Southern Africa

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