There is no immediate threat to South Africa’s food supply, despite the economic disruption caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.

This is according to stakeholders in the agricultural and retailing industries.

Business Day quotes representatives of both industries stressing that the production and supply chains are robust and capable of meeting demand, even under difficult conditions.

CEO of Agri SA, Omri van Zyl, noted: ‘We are a net exporter of food, so I don’t think food security is a concern. We are, by a wide margin, the most food secure country in Africa.’

Agri-SA CEO John Purchase said that plans were in place to ensure continuity of supply. ‘A comprehensive plan is being developed by government and the private sector … and food security is right at the centre of that.’

Retail outlets, meanwhile, have reported higher-than-usual volumes of sales for particular products. Online shopping and home delivery systems were becoming increasingly popular, which was placing a strain on them. The number of certain items that could be bought was now frequently being restricted, while delivery times were increasing. Protocols also called for delivery teams to avoid contact with customers.

Both agriculture and retail representatives warned against panic buying and hoarding.

However, the longer the pandemic lasted, the greater the difficulties faced were likely to be. Agri-SA has previously warned of the damage that it could do to South Africa’s exports, with lower demand anticipated abroad.

In addition, Vuyo Mahlati, president of African Farmers Association of SA (Afasa), said that ‘the issue of food availability and affordability’ was an important one for vast numbers of people. Dr Mahlati said that there was ‘not enough food’ and that some of it was being exported.

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