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  • Food supplies shouldn't be too badly affected, but social restrictions will make it hard for many to buy and access food.

  • Over the past few days, the complex nature of South Africa’s food supply chains has come under the spotlight.

    These supply chains are a web of formal and informal interactions between agricultural inputs, logistics, farmers, spazas, bakkie traders, processing plants, shipping, retailing, biosecurity and more. Despite the reference to essential goods and services that need to continue to operate, the announcement by President Ramaphosa of a 21-day lockdown triggered a sharp rise in purchases of food that, according to various retailers, exceeded the volumes that are typically sold over Christmas. Furthermore, the lockdown has caused significant confusion at various nodes in the value chain with regards to what is classified as an essential service and what is not. Initially informal traders were excluded from the list of essential services, which caused a major bottleneck in access to food in many poor neighbourhoods, especially in rural areas. This was rectified in the second amendment to the Regulations on 2 April, when the relevant definition of essential services was changed to include “grocery stores and wholesale produce markets, including spaza shops and informal food traders, with written permission from a municipal authority to operate being required in respect of informal food traders”. This is an important amendment, which allows informal traders such as street hawkers to operate again, but requires a coordinated implementation plan with regard to the issuing of permits and the enforcement of health and safety requirements within essential but informal food trading. On-going cooperation between government and private sector is required to efficiently and effectively remove bottlenecks and enable the continuous operation of all essential goods and service delivery within the food value chain to ensure food security during COVID-19 lockdown.

    In its first two briefs on the impact of COVID-19, BFAP provided an overview of the South African food system and food expenditure patterns by consumers respectively. This brief sheds light on the complex nature of the food supply chain and the extent of the essential goods and services required for its effective operation. In his initial speech, the President referred to some of the broader sectors that are exempt from restrictions, but did not provide a comprehensive list of all included sectors at the time. Essential goods or services can generally be defined as those that: • May be bought or acquired primarily for personal, family or household purposes, including but not limited to medicines, food, water or fuel; and • Are necessary for the health, safety, or welfare of consumers. Essential goods and services as defined in Section 213 of the Labour Relations Act (Act No 66 of 1995), and designated in terms of section 71(8) of the Act, are specified as power, health, transport, water and sanitation. For the purpose of the COVID-19 lockdown, an amendment of regulations to the Disaster Management Act (2002) provided increased clarity of food related ‘essential goods’ and these were outlined as: • Any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages; • Animal food; and • Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any food product. April 3, 2020 Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) 477 Witherite road, Agri hub office park Die Wilgers, 0186 Pretoria www.bfap.co.za This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Although the food and related products stated above were included in the amended list of essential goods, the list of “essential services” related to food and food production was less comprehensive.

    The essential services classification needs to extend across agriculture and not just food, as agricultural value chains are intertwined and if not managed carefully, will have a direct and negative impact on food security. For instance, cotton and wool are not included as essential products, but they provide cashflow to farmers, and are critical in the sustainability of livelihoods and food security, as, without cash flow, field crops cannot be planted. Both sectors are also critical components of the animal feed industry. It is therefore important that cotton and wool (export) trade be opened in order to support farm incomes. The export of cotton and wool also requires port services in order to facilitate the country’s exports. The foregoing underlines the fact that the “food industry” in South Africa is complex and includes a number of support services which, directly and indirectly, enable the efficient and effective operations of the holistic food value chain, and therefore fits the fundamental definition of essential services. By implication, such services must also be authorised to function normally for the food value chain to continue functioning in an effective manner. From a food supply chain perspective, essential goods and services entail all activities and processes which support the production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste disposal of food in the system.

    The following essential food-related supply chains remain operational: • Agricultural and food-related operations, and all agricultural input suppliers and support services; • Fish operations; • Manufacturing facilities for the processing of food, beverages and essential products; • Warehousing, transport and logistics for food, essential products, and health-related goods; • Ports, roads and rail networks, which will remain open to facilitate the import and export of essential products. It is critical that related inspection and regulatory/ documentation control systems and processes operate efficiently and effectively; • Food outlets – including retail, wholesale, spaza shops, malls for food, and essential products. Figure 1 outlines the broad framework of South Africa’s food supply chain and its various components, including the essential services that ensure the smooth functioning of the country’s food system. It includes multiple cross-cutting services such as electricity, banking, telecommunications, water, security, logistics, sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) functions, and waste disposal, among others. Such services are required across the various components of the food supply chain. Transport, as well as health and safety, are pre-requisites that are essential at each node of the food supply chain; critical additional services at ports include administrative functions that ensure documentation and procedures are adhered to for exported and imported essential goods.

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  • What does it help if we pull all the stops to protect our health, but we forget to ensure that everyone has an adequate food supply? The Covid-19 pandemic will accentuate levels of inequality in society in ways we have not anticipated, unless we start paying closer attention to food security among the poorest of the poor.

  • Most countries around the world have responded to the spread of the coronavirus through large scale lockdowns. With the global economy coming to a near stand-still, trade in food and related essentials has been prioritised to ensure food security.

  • As the lockdown for families in their homes and the economic impasse regarding businesses that have been closed are beginning to take a toll on communities and households, the reality of food shortages in poor areas is gradually becoming a bigger threat than the coronavirus itself.

  • COVID-19 has caused widespread turmoil and volatility since the start of 2020 and the measures implemented to contain it have sent shockwaves throughout the global economy.

  • In an industrial park built off a highway in the arid land between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, a sprawling new indoor farm will soon grow tomatoes under LED lights in a climate-controlled warehouse near a plastic production facility and other factories.

  • If there is just one outcome from the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa that could be considered positive, it is this: for perhaps the first time, the reality of household hunger and malnutrition has become visible to policymakers. 

  • As consumers in the Global North complain about grocery stores stripped of staples, African nations are mobilising to get basic food supplies to their most vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 lockdown.

  •  When it comes to bread, the conversation can become politically charged very quickly.

  • IndexBox latest report has revealed that the revenue of Africa's grain market amounted to $109bn in 2018, picking up by 9% against the previous year. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers' margins, which will be included in the final consumer price).

  • Agriculture is a dominant economic activity across Sub-Saharan Africa, except for a few resource-rich economies, such as South Africa, Botswana and Angola. Yet Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with high levels of food insecurity and the most acute levels of malnutrition compared to other regions in the world.

  • The coronavirus pandemic has laid many things bare, none more so than how interconnected our world is. The impact of globalization is most obvious in the stuttering supply chains that threaten food security worldwide. Maintaining or reweaving these webs is going to take technology, innovation and political determination.

  • Massive swarms of locusts are sweeping across South Asia, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. The current outbreak is the worst in recent decades.

  • Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are turning to policy described as “food nationalism” — protecting their domestic grain markets amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including major grain export restrictions, a highly concerning development for countries dependent on their grain supplies.

  • Global food and agricultural supply chains are taking strain from disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the case whether one looks at meat or grain supply chains.

  • Warren Buffets brutal adage that ‘only when the tide goes out can you see who is swimming naked’ seems especially true during this current crisis.

  • “Among the things we’ve learnt this week, perhaps we should add that South Africans love a good speech.

  • More and more people struggle to have access to or enough food in fragile countries

  •  Masvingo districts discussed in the last blog in this series, and they share many similarities, with a focus on maize production, combined with horticulture. There are fewer who are accumulating significantly, but there are still many who are doing well.

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