Sanitisers have been flying off local shelves recently
Sanitisers have been flying off local shelves recently

"Food security is not a concern"

By MERVYN NAIDOO Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

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Leaders in the country’s food production and retail industry believe “food security” is not a concern, as farmers continue to grow and manufacturers are still able to produce.

Reports and images of empty shelves in supermarkets have been doing the rounds on social media recently, especially after President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation with a plan of action to curb the further spread of coronavirus in the country.

Included in his Sunday evening address was that all schools must be closed by midweek and gatherings of more than 100 people were not permitted.

This resulted in widespread “panic buying” since Monday.

However during a radio interview on Tuesday, Omri van Zyl, Agri SA’s executive director said: As far as food security being a concern, we don't see a problem there. 

“The main thrust of our food security is determined by our maize crop, and we have  a good crop presently.”

He assured that South Africa was a big exporter of food so don’t forsee a problem.

Noel Doyle, Chief executive of Tiger Brands, one of the country’s largest food processors said in the short term we are well planned to avoid disruptions of food supplies in the short term.

“We are trying to iron out any disruptions further down the food chain and we are trying to build stocks levels and make it available to all our regions.”

Doyle said they were able to increase capacity of production of certain products because they had the required raw material and finished goods on hand. 

He was confident that they had the flexibility to move people around to ensure key products are produced. 

“Over the next two to three months, we don't see any issues with supply unless there is any catastrophe with the (coronavirus) infection rate.

“There are some products that come in from the East, like rice. There could be challenges in the future. We are trying to be proactive and prevent future disruptions.”

He said when you see supermarket shelves cleared in a day, like yesterday, “it is not easy to replenish.

“Empty shelves create psychological fear . So there might be restrictions on the number of items taken out at a time to reduce the panic and ensure  a wider spread.

David North, Pick n Pay’s group executive for strategy and corporate affairs said they had a busy few days. 

“Personal hygiene stuff has been popular and over the last few days people have been stocking up on food like pasta, rice and tins. Toilet paper sales have spiked.”

North said the extra demand was not too much of a concern because the country has effective supply chain systems in place, with great order, distributions and transport systems.

He said customers should have confidence to shop as they had previously and it was not necessary to buy too much.

“Our shops will have stocks, today, tomorrow and the day after because of the effective supply chain systems we have.

“The system is very resilient. We will be able to draw from stock and order more products as we talk to suppliers everyday.”

North said the past few days have been bumpy because customers believe the times are uncertain and decided to stock up.

“The important thing to know is that farmers are still growing , growers still growing, factories are still producing, manufacturers are still coming forward with products. 

“It terms of food, 90% of what we buy and eat in South Africa is produced locally. It is a very resilient country when it comes to food production. So people don't need to overstock and we would encourage them to go about their food shopping in the normal way.”

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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