Proper planning can eradicate hunger in South Africa

With proper planning and production support, South Africa has the potential “for efficient domestic production and supply all year round,” said agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson at the recent World Food Day summit held in Pretoria.

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But the fact that bread is priced outside of the reach of the average South African family shows there’s something “seriously wrong with the food sector,” she said, adding that South Africa needs “properly defined and efficient food-distribution systems”.

The minister called for robust investment in efforts to enable the country to meet domestic food requirements, saying agricultural imports increased by 40% over the past five years. “We can’t produce food that we don’t eat and eat food that we don’t produce,” she said.Research and technology development aimed at improving and increasing household food production for trading purposes is just as important.

Such research, noted Joemat-Pettersson, should address high input and production costs to mitigate against the high cost of the final product. Better food production can be boosted by research and development through methodologies, better genes for both livestock and horticulture, and improving the quality of indigenous foods, she said. In addition, government is looking at policies that promote and strengthen cooperatives and the development of labour markets.

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“The benefits of cooperatives aren’t only limited to potential for economic growth and job creation, but also extend to food security,” said Joemat-Pettersson.“Through value chain activities, food – and especially fresh produce – acquires a longer shelf life for easy transportation and market access to communities that require food.“Small agro-processing plants will inversely provide employment for rural communities and also spark interest in agriculture.”

However, she cautioned ,“hunger and food insecurity will never be eradicated through food production alone without inter-linkages with other government programmes, the agri-industry, the agro-processing and retail sector and research-based institutions”.

Government’s policy position regarding climate change calls for intensified mechanisation, technological advancement, better production practices to increase yields per hectare, and recycling of natural resources, said the minister. “Countries with similar economies to ours, such as India and Brazil, have managed to reduce the levels of income inequalities and have reduced hunger down to zero levels,” said Joemat-Pettersson.“We should ask ourselves what is that they have that we don’t have. I would say we have what it takes to accomplish their success.”