South African Food Crisis Looms as Load Shedding Threatens Supply Chain and Prices

South Africans may have already noticed it: Empty shelves at their local grocery stores. Experts say that unless significant measures are put in place to protect food producers, availability and prices of food will only get worse. In a recent column, Christo van der Rheede, the Chief Executive of AgriSA warned that South Africa was facing a deepening food crisis due to the ongoing and escalating load shedding which has not been addressed by the government to mitigate this.

Lack of Action by the Government

Van der Rheede pointed out that the short-lived national state of disaster provided an opportunity to protect certain producers from load shedding and to protect the supply chain of food. However, nothing was done with the exceptional powers at all. He added that the consequences of failing to protect food producers and the related supply chain could be far-reaching. Retailers may be unable to stock certain food items due to shortages, which would further add to price pressure.

Consequences of Food Supply Chain Disruption

The supply chain disruption of food could have consequences beyond pricing and availability. The declining capacity of South Africa’s farmers to produce food, may eventually lead to job losses, van der Rheede said. The loss of jobs will plunge more people into poverty, increasing the gap between those who can and cannot afford food, dramatically reducing food certainty for many households.

Solutions: Load Shedding Schedule for Food Producers

AgriSA chief executive Christo van der Rheede believes that the only way to avoid an impending food disaster in South Africa is for the government to address load shedding. However, given its failure to do anything meaningful since implementing near-permanent load shedding in September 2022 – and worse load shedding expected in winter – this solution is effectively out of reach in the short term.

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Van der Rheede said that a special load shedding schedule, considering the particular needs of food production could work given the situation. The industry also needs to find relief beyond the grid, and the government needs to do more than tax breaks for diesel. This tax break should be given to the businesses throughout the supply chain to be effective.

“We’ve wasted enough time on complex and novel interventions that have borne little fruit. And we have no more time to waste on band-aids that simply mask the problem without addressing its root…A food crisis still looms if we don’t act quickly,” van der Rheede said.

The Government’s Role in Protecting Food Producers

Experts say that as the food crisis deepens, the government’s role in protecting food producers becomes more critical. Immediate actions that the government can take to alleviate the food crisis include:

  • Implementing measures to protect farmers from load shedding.
  • Providing financial support to the farmers who have had their crops destroyed as a result of the current food crisis.
  • Encouraging investments in the agricultural sector.
  • Addressing policies that undermine the competitiveness of local food producers.

The government needs to act quickly before the food crisis causes more severe economic and social consequences.

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