Government Must Roll Up Its Sleeves and Ensure Household Food Security

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Attwell Nazo and |Katishi Masemola

It's time for the state to intervene to ensure household food security - the ability of families to access food at affordable prices - through active participation in production and distribution, as well as through policy measures that defend the nation's food security and sovereignty.

At the centre of enhancing national food security - our ability to produce enough to feed our citizens - should be the drive to reverse this country's status from a net food importer back to a net food exporter.

Ninety percent of food consumed is purchased and 10 percent is produced, either by co-operative farming or by subsistence farming, for own consumption.

Therefore, a big section of society depends on retail-supplied food to feed themselves.

Availability of food supplies depends on sustained production and/or processing by private sector players in the food production/processing stage of the value chain.

Food accessibility relies on distribution channels to ensure that food supplies are able to reach retail centres in communities, both urban and rural.

What then becomes critical to communities, particularly households, is the ability to purchase food, particularly staple food products, at reasonable prices.

The government's Industrial Policy Action Plans 2 does prioritise agro-processing as one of the sectors with potential to create more jobs and to meet the basic need of food security for South Africans.

However, this should be supported by trade policy measures such as tariff protection against highly subsidised food imports.

There is a need to fast-track the land reform and agricultural transformation programmes in order to create and support co-operative, subsistence, and small-scale farming and agro-processing enterprises across product lines, from livestock and crops to verticulture and horticulture.

At the heart of the successful growth of small players will be infrastructure, from roads and rail infrastructure to a public transport system, and from electricity and water supply to telecommunications facilities.

And this infrastructure support should be supplemented with other services support. At the primary agricultural level, our country needs to give focused support services to subsistence, co-operative and small-scale farmers on a range of needs.

This stretches from extension services and research and development needs to affordable supplies of seeds and fertilisers. …