Food security?

We often hear commentators offering sage counsel on how to market fresh produce successfully in a country as diverse as ours.

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Much of what they say is sound, and producers and marketers should take note. The old stalwarts of quality and continuity of supply will always apply, but I’m thinking of other factors that our fathers did not have to contend with. The phrase ‘food security’ slips out from those who want to score easy points with their audiences.

But achieving food security is easier said than done. In the African context, politics plays a damning role in food security and yet we live on a continent with huge food production potential. Certainly, the rest of the world has woken up to this. Faced with feeding growing populations with limited resources at home, countries are turning to Africa. Huge investments have been made across the continent – ask the Chinese – as corporations and their countries scramble for land and resources in the ‘continent of plenty’.

GM crops are another factor playing an increasing role in the food security debate. Many claim that these are the answer to sustainable farming – and food security. But there are questions about their safety for humans and the environment. What about organic food, then? Will organic farming be able to produce food on such a scale as to really contribute to food security, or will it remain a niche for the upper end of the market?

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There are those who claim there’s no difference, or very little, between the nutritional value of organic and conventional crops. Quantity is important, but nutritional value is equally so. It’s of little use having a product available en masse which offers little in the form of healthy sustenance.

Unacceptable levels of wastage
Then there are the huge losses of fresh produce suffered through incorrect or bad handling and storage. A world that throws away 25% of all the edible fresh produce it grows needs a serious wake-up call. We can grow more through new technology and farming methods. We can produce crops that are nutritious and beneficial. But what value will all of this be if we simply throw so much of it away?  A great deal of good work is being done all over the continent, but we need to make an even bigger effort.