Andy du Plessis, managing director at Food Forward SA ,said lots of food that went to waste were produced by primary sellers, such as supermarkets.
He challenged businesses to take advantage of the surplus produced by the primary sellers before they could be disposed of in the landfill sites.
Du Plesis was one of the five panellists who discussed how to sustain food production during the sixth Ambassador’s Luncheon at Menlyn yesterday.
The meeting was hosted under the theme agriculture: alternative strategies in agriculture for sustainable livelihoods and food security.
It was organised by the Southern African Netherlands Chamber of Commerce and the Tshwane Economic Development Agency.
The general manager at Produce Marketing Association southern Africa, Lindie Stroebel, said: “The world is expected to have a 9 billion population by 2050.
“That means more mouths to feed.”
She said challenges that went hand in hand with sustaining food security included inequality and unemployment.
“The solution to the complex situation is the market.
"What we have, what is very unique in Africa is the diversity in market channels.”
She warned against the tendency to underestimate the type of market the country had, which was market diversity.
“If you ask informal traders if they are employed they will say ‘no’.”
Mandla Nkomo, managing director at Solidaridad Network Southern Africa REC, held the view that a lack of proper co-ordination among the role-players in the agriculture space was a problem.
According to him, the participants in agriculture were not leveraging the power of technology to share information with each other.
He said there was a need for a radical shift in terms of agricultural practice because of climate change.
Sheboy Sedutla, director of market system development at Tshwane Fresh Produce Market, said the sector collectively contributed almost R84billion towards the country's economy per annum.
Of the amount, Tshwane Fresh Produce Market contributed R3.2bn, and the informal trading sector more than R1bn.
He believed that the manner in which food was produced was not sustainable.
“We really need to work harder to sustain it. I don't think we are sustainable in order to satisfy the nation.
“We have more demands and still we have customers dissatisfied in terms of the quantity they get from the market.
“People need food and still need to eat.
“We need to produce more to satisfy the nation.”
Kwena Mpati, senior specialist in farming support programme at the City of Tshwane, expressed dissatisfaction at the seeming neglect of farmers on smallholdings.
She appealed for assistance for such farmers who didn't have proper infrastructure to do business.
“Farmers on smallholdings were still struggling. Most of them are still at the same level for more than 10 years.”
According to Mpati, part of the problem could be attributed to lack of co-ordination between the government and private sectors.
“We need to strengthen our relationship with stakeholders in the city.
“We need to work together with the private sector.”
Access to capital and the lack of ability to connect with the market in an effective manner were identified as one of the challenges facing the sector.