Having identified the problem, the Competition Commission offers a solution: more local markets supplied directly by farmers, cutting out middle men and retailers.
This is the same model promoted by some panellists on last month’s FairPlay webinar on food security. The commission’s concerns include food security, but its focus is transformation and the promotion of small-scale farmers.
In the commission’s view, there is too much concentration in the South African agriculture and agro-processing sectors, resulting in potential new entrants, including small-scale black farmers, either struggling to become established or going out of business.
However, it notes a global trend towards more local and small-scale farming, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There has been a strong global focus on the localisation of agricultural production to ensure that countries are self-sufficient and food secure. A trend that has accelerated during the pandemic is ‘buy local’ initiatives, where customers are increasingly purchasing fruits and vegetables from farmer’s markets and local businesses as seen across Europe and the United States.
“The trend towards local farming inevitably means the trend towards small-scale farming, as the produce is usually grown to service local consumers and not a global market,” the commission says.
In addition to benefiting consumers, it sees socio-economic benefits to encouraging local farmer’s markets and developing small-scale agriculture.
“The localisation of farming and shorter supply chains can encourage small farmers as it generates more opportunities to market their produce as shorter supply chains forgo the high transport and high intermediation costs involved in larger value chains.”
The importance of smallholder agriculture to increase development of rural areas is recognised in various reports, and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) announced various interventions to assist the agricultural sector during the pandemic, including a financial aid scheme to deliver R1 billion in funding to more than 75,000 small-scale farmers in 2021.
“For these initiatives to succeed, agricultural markets will need to change,” the commission states.
Image: Tumi Mokwene founder of Phetogo Poultry farm.