Rethinking food security

Agricultural economist Dr Koos Coetzee has called on the government to give more support to agriculture to help improve South Africa’s food security.

In an article in Farmers Weekly, he said the impact of the Ukraine war on agricultural supplies and inputs was reminiscent of the 2008 food supply crisis. That had led to a United Nations publication on rethinking food security, after more than 40 countries imposed bans or restrictions on food exports.

The UN had recommended increased support for local agriculture, and suggested that countries keep their local grain reserves.

Dr Coetzee said while countries could import food products, imports were usually more expensive and global supplies could be disrupted. The advantage of local production was shown in the grain industry, where good local crops led to lower grain prices, benefitting livestock farmers.

“South Africa’s commercial farmers are as efficient as farmers in other countries. With some encouragement and protection against unfair competition, they will be able to produce enough food to feed the population and earn foreign currency with exports.”

What agriculture needed was for government to rectify the deterioration in service delivery and infrastructure, and to create an environment in which agriculture could flourish. This would lead to the creation of jobs in other industries as well.

“South African agriculture still performs well. With a little effort from government’s side, we could do much better,” he wrote.