• A third of all people living in sub-Saharan Africa face severe food insecurity. They do not have enough money, or the resources to grow food, and regularly go for more than a day without food.

  • My good friend, Michael McDougall, at EDF Man Capital Markets, raised an important point in his daily newsletter – malnutrition.

  • Africa has been exporting most of its farm produce raw, and experts say that by exporting raw materials, the continent is exporting jobs as well as money which could be saved to improve the welfare of its people.

  • Over the past few days, the complex nature of South Africa’s food supply chains has come under the spotlight.

    These supply chains are a web of formal and informal interactions between agricultural inputs, logistics, farmers, spazas, bakkie traders, processing plants, shipping, retailing, biosecurity and more. Despite the reference to essential goods and services that need to continue to operate, the announcement by President Ramaphosa of a 21-day lockdown triggered a sharp rise in purchases of food that, according to various retailers, exceeded the volumes that are typically sold over Christmas. Furthermore, the lockdown has caused significant confusion at various nodes in the value chain with regards to what is classified as an essential service and what is not. Initially informal traders were excluded from the list of essential services, which caused a major bottleneck in access to food in many poor neighbourhoods, especially in rural areas. This was rectified in the second amendment to the Regulations on 2 April, when the relevant definition of essential services was changed to include “grocery stores and wholesale produce markets, including spaza shops and informal food traders, with written permission from a municipal authority to operate being required in respect of informal food traders”. This is an important amendment, which allows informal traders such as street hawkers to operate again, but requires a coordinated implementation plan with regard to the issuing of permits and the enforcement of health and safety requirements within essential but informal food trading. On-going cooperation between government and private sector is required to efficiently and effectively remove bottlenecks and enable the continuous operation of all essential goods and service delivery within the food value chain to ensure food security during COVID-19 lockdown.

    In its first two briefs on the impact of COVID-19, BFAP provided an overview of the South African food system and food expenditure patterns by consumers respectively. This brief sheds light on the complex nature of the food supply chain and the extent of the essential goods and services required for its effective operation. In his initial speech, the President referred to some of the broader sectors that are exempt from restrictions, but did not provide a comprehensive list of all included sectors at the time. Essential goods or services can generally be defined as those that: • May be bought or acquired primarily for personal, family or household purposes, including but not limited to medicines, food, water or fuel; and • Are necessary for the health, safety, or welfare of consumers. Essential goods and services as defined in Section 213 of the Labour Relations Act (Act No 66 of 1995), and designated in terms of section 71(8) of the Act, are specified as power, health, transport, water and sanitation. For the purpose of the COVID-19 lockdown, an amendment of regulations to the Disaster Management Act (2002) provided increased clarity of food related ‘essential goods’ and these were outlined as: • Any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages; • Animal food; and • Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any food product. April 3, 2020 Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) 477 Witherite road, Agri hub office park Die Wilgers, 0186 Pretoria www.bfap.co.za This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Although the food and related products stated above were included in the amended list of essential goods, the list of “essential services” related to food and food production was less comprehensive.

    The essential services classification needs to extend across agriculture and not just food, as agricultural value chains are intertwined and if not managed carefully, will have a direct and negative impact on food security. For instance, cotton and wool are not included as essential products, but they provide cashflow to farmers, and are critical in the sustainability of livelihoods and food security, as, without cash flow, field crops cannot be planted. Both sectors are also critical components of the animal feed industry. It is therefore important that cotton and wool (export) trade be opened in order to support farm incomes. The export of cotton and wool also requires port services in order to facilitate the country’s exports. The foregoing underlines the fact that the “food industry” in South Africa is complex and includes a number of support services which, directly and indirectly, enable the efficient and effective operations of the holistic food value chain, and therefore fits the fundamental definition of essential services. By implication, such services must also be authorised to function normally for the food value chain to continue functioning in an effective manner. From a food supply chain perspective, essential goods and services entail all activities and processes which support the production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste disposal of food in the system.

    The following essential food-related supply chains remain operational: • Agricultural and food-related operations, and all agricultural input suppliers and support services; • Fish operations; • Manufacturing facilities for the processing of food, beverages and essential products; • Warehousing, transport and logistics for food, essential products, and health-related goods; • Ports, roads and rail networks, which will remain open to facilitate the import and export of essential products. It is critical that related inspection and regulatory/ documentation control systems and processes operate efficiently and effectively; • Food outlets – including retail, wholesale, spaza shops, malls for food, and essential products. Figure 1 outlines the broad framework of South Africa’s food supply chain and its various components, including the essential services that ensure the smooth functioning of the country’s food system. It includes multiple cross-cutting services such as electricity, banking, telecommunications, water, security, logistics, sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) functions, and waste disposal, among others. Such services are required across the various components of the food supply chain. Transport, as well as health and safety, are pre-requisites that are essential at each node of the food supply chain; critical additional services at ports include administrative functions that ensure documentation and procedures are adhered to for exported and imported essential goods.


  • Food is fuel to human existence, and in the evolution of human settlements, food— its production, availability, demand and supply — and food systems have steered the development, expansion and decline of human settlements.

    In the 21st century, global food systems face dual challenges of increasing food demand while competing for resources — such as land, water, and energy — that affect food supply. In context of climate change and unpredictable shocks, such as a global pandemic, the need for resiliency in global food systems has become more pressing than ever.

    With the globalization of food systems in 1950s, the global food production and associated trade has witnessed a sustained growth, and continues to be driven by advancements in transport and communications, reduction in trade barriers and agricultural tariffs. But, the effectiveness of global food system is undermined by two key challenges: waste and nutrition.

    Food wastage is common across all stages of the food chain. Nearly 13.8% of food is lost in supply chains — from harvesting to transport to storage to processing. However, limited research and scientific understanding of price elasticity of food waste makes it tough to evaluate how food waste can be reduced with pricing strategy.

    When food is wasted, so are the energy, land, and resources that were used to create it. Nearly 23% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions between 2007-2016 were derived from agriculture, forestry and other land uses. Apart from cultivation and livestock rearing, agriculture also adds emissions through land clearance for cultivation. Overfishing, soil erosion, and depletion and deterioration of aquifers threaten food security. At the same time, food production faces increasing risks from climate change — particularly droughts, increasing frequency of storms, and other extreme weather events.

       Global food prices surge to their highest level in a decade

    The world has made significant progress in reducing hunger in the past 50 years. Yet there are nearly 800 million people without access to adequate food. Additionally, two billion people are affected by hidden hunger wherein people lack key micronutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine. Apart from nutrient deficiency, approximately two billion people are overweight and affected by chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

    In essence, the global food system is inadequate in delivering the changing and increasing demands of the human population. The system requires an upgrade that takes into account the social-cultural interactions, changing diets, increasing wealth and wealth gap, finite resources, challenges of inequitable access, and the needs of the disadvantaged who spend the greatest proportion of their income on food. To feed the projected 10 billion people by 2050, it is essential to increase and stabilize global food trade and simultaneously align the food demand and supply chains across different geographies and at various scales of space and time.

    infographic showing connections with various sdgs

    How food and agriculture fit into the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Image: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

    Back in 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus, in his essay on the principle of population, concluded that “the power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must come in some shape or other visit the human race.” Malthus projected that short-term gains in living standards would eventually be undermined as human population growth outstripped food production, thereby pushing back living standards towards subsistence.

    Malthus’ projections were based on a model where population grew geometrically, while food production increased arithmetically. While Malthus emphasized the importance of land in population-food production dynamics, he understated the role of technology in augmenting total production and family planning in reducing fertility rates. Nonetheless, one cannot banish the Malthusian specter; food production and population are closely intertwined. This close relationship, however, is also affected by changing and improving diets in developing countries and biofuel production — factors that increase the global demand for food and feed.

    Around the world, enough food is produced to feed the planet and provide 3,000 calories of nutritious food to each human being every day. In the story of global food systems once defined by starvation and death to now feeding the world, there have been a few ratchets — technologies and innovations that helped the human species transition from hunters and gatherers to shoppers in a supermarket. While some of these ratchets have helped improve and expand the global food systems, some create new opportunities for environmental damage.

    To sum it up, the future of global food systems is strongly interlinked to the planning, management and development of sustainable, equitable and healthy food systems delivering food and nutrition security for all. A bundle of interventions and stimulus packages are needed at both the supply and demand ends to feed the world in the present as well as the future — sustainably, within the planetary boundaries defining a safe operating space for humanity. It requires an intersectoral policy analysis, multi-stakeholder engagement — involving farms, retailers, food processors, technology providers, financial institutions, government agencies, consumers — and interdisciplinary actions.

  • Africa’s agricultural productivity has long lagged behind the rest of the world. Crop yields grew across Asia from 1960 onwards, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty, but stagnated in Africa where cereal yields stayed largely unchanged for the 30 years of the green revolution.

  • Symbolic for the fall harvest, the pumpkin has become an icon for food during this time of the year and can be found almost everywhere you look.

  • Insects could be a game changer in the race to combat food insecurity and achieve zero hunger – the theme of this year’s World Food Day.

  • Since its emergence more than two years ago, COVID-19 has reached nearly every corner of the globe. It has infected hundreds of millions of people, and overwhelmed health systems worldwide. But its impact goes beyond its direct health consequences.

    Measures to contain its spread – such as travel restrictions and lockdowns – have also had severe consequences for economies and food systems worldwide.

    Despite the global impact, the consequences of pandemic-related restrictions vary widely among individuals. In the West, massive stimulus spending has helped ease the economic burden of the lockdowns. In low and middle-income countries, steep drops in employment and income have rivalled or exceeded those in richer nations.

    But most people in poor countries have received no financial support and have few or no savings to fall back on.

    Research shows that a disproportionate burden of pandemic-related restrictions has fallen on the world’s poorest. This has raised the question of how to best adapt the mitigation efforts to different types of economies.

    My colleagues and I sought to shed light on this issue. Our research examined the impact of pandemic restrictions on smallholder farmers in low and middle-income countries.

    In line with existing research on the negative impacts of pandemic restrictions, farmers in low and middle income countries reported that COVID-19 measures negatively affected food purchase, income generation and access to inputs.

    Food security
    The focus on smallholder farmers is pertinent. This group contributes most of the food production in many countries. They are also vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty.

    We conducted more than 9,000 interviews with smallholder farmers from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. The seven countries reflect the diversity of COVID-19 containment measures, and all rely heavily on smallholders for food supply.

    The containment measures ranged from no restrictions in Burundi and Tanzania, to closures of public spaces, mandatory quarantines, and travel restrictions in Rwanda and Vietnam. This diversity allowed us to assess how the severity of COVID-19 restrictions affected smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and food security.

    Our findings also indicate that the severity of these impacts was directly related to the stringency of the measures.

    For countries with the strictest control, up to 80% of smallholder households reported major disruptions, largely in their ability to purchase food due to high prices and closed markets.

    Under stringent regulations, most smallholders also reported income reductions averaging 50%. The drop was due to few work opportunities, low prices for agricultural goods, and difficulty in accessing markets. This affected households with off-farm and on-farm incomes alike.

       Potential hunger crisis looms- World

    In contrast, negative economic and food security outcomes were less frequent and less severe in locations with relaxed measures. Only around 20% of smallholders reported negative outcomes in Burundi and Tanzania. This supports the growing connection between stringent restrictions and rising poverty and food insecurity in vulnerable areas.

    Government support
    Reports of lost income and difficulty in purchasing food are not unique to smallholder farmers in low and middle-income countries. People around the world have either lost jobs or seen empty grocery store shelves when the pandemic first hit.

    What separates the experience of smallholder farmers of poor countries from their counterparts in the West is government aid, and the resulting coping tactics.

    The overwhelming majority of farmers we interviewed said they had received no official aid. Unable to turn to their government for support, up to 80% of smallholder farmers in areas under stringent control were forced to reduce their food consumption. Other coping methods included the sale of livestock, unplanned crop sale, drawing down of savings and taking risky loans.

    These findings have profound implications because coping methods reduce the buffering capacity of smallholder households and make them vulnerable to future shocks. In many poor smallholder households, coping ways likely forced them into deprivation.

    Overall, our results draw further attention to the policy choice between lives and livelihoods. It reveals an almost impossible trade-off between saving lives from the pandemic and losing lives due to deprivation.

    Our findings are supported by recent economic analyses showing that the cost-benefit ratio of COVID-19 measures can differ significantly by country. The optimal lockdown is likely to be less stringent in low and middle-income countries seeking to prevent deprivation.

    Researchers are not the only ones catching on to this. A recent media analysis of how the pandemic was discussed in five African countries shows that popular media recognised the food insecurity impacts long before many of the scientific studies had been published. Popular narratives framed the situation as a balance between virus containment and food security. This eventually influenced governments to adapt official policy responses and loosen restrictions.

    In other words, the world is slowly coming to the realisation that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. Research shows that stringent measures can successfully prevent excess deaths. But if these measures are introduced in poor countries without the requisite financial assistance, they can undermine the health of the very people they intended to protect.

    What works for poor countries
    Therefore, the suitability of any crisis mitigation depends on the needs of local populations as well as the capacity of local government to support them.

    Crisis mitigation must guard against the exhaustion of buffering capacity in vulnerable households. Potential policy measures to ensure this include tiered mobility restrictions that allow travel for economic reasons, short-term price guarantees to stabilise the food system, and direct aid to rural households.

    As governments fight this pandemic and prepare for future crises, they can no longer shy away from thinking through the trade-offs between restrictions and well-being. When COVID-19 struck, we were not prepared to make informed decisions about the trade-offs. The world’s poorest have borne the brunt of the consequences.

    Our latest study is part of a growing body of research that provide tools we need to confront these trade-offs. By considering costs and benefits to local populations, policymakers can craft measures that save lives and protect livelihoods of the most vulnerable.

  • If you want to know how much food the world wastes, the internet is your friend.

  • Roquette, a global leader in plant-based ingredients for Food, Nutrition and Health markets and a pioneer in new vegetal proteins, and Equinom Ltd., an innovative Israel based breeding technology company, have signed a partnership agreement for the development and sourcing of new pea varieties with high-protein content.

  • Environmental health is concerned with how the environment - not only air, water and other organisms - but our homes, work and leisure places, means of transport and technology - affects human health and well-being.

  • These days, almost everyone is aware of just how important it is to eat breakfast—it sets you up for the day, gives you the energy you need to get things done, and kick starts your metabolism.

  • Neonicotinoid pesticides including acetamiprid and imidacloprid (that are responsible for deaths of millions of bees) are affecting developing human nervous system and may even harm developing brains of the unborn babies, experts at European Food Safety Authority say.   

  • South Africa’s food and non-alcoholic beverages price inflation accelerated to 3.9% y/y in September 2018, up by 3.5% y/y in the previous month – the highest rate in five months.

  • The medium-term budget policy statement has addressed some of our bread-and-butter issues, but now that it is behind us it is time to reflect on another: food security.

  • "If it tastes good, just spit it out." Too many times, that's how people feel when they are trying to lose weight. Unfortunately, too often those things that taste good are full of calories, fat and/or sodium. And while you might think salads are better for you than other foods, think again.

  • When it comes to spices, cinnamon is a classic. People love cinnamon for its unique flavor combination of sweet and spicy. This food pantry staple is used in baking, teas, cereals, and as a tasty addition to Betsy’s Best Gourmet Cinnamon Almond Butter, Peanut Butter and Sunflower Seed Butters.

  • Looking through the refrigerator at home, we are often assailed by doubts: “Will the chicken still be good after all this time?” “What about the cheese?” “Wait, when did I buy this — wasn’t it last week?”

  • Egg yolks vary wildly in color ― from soft yellow to dark orange, even red ― and our color preference often varies depending on where we’re from. But what does the color tell us about the quality and nutrition of our eggs?