Food security and riots warnings in South Africa

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa has warned of food shortages which can lead to a repeat of the July 2021 riots which ravaged parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Zinhle Tyikwe, CEO of the Consumer Goods Council, told Business Day TV that around 50% of South Africans go hungry and that 50% of food gets wasted.

Load-shedding exacerbated the situation, causing more food to get wasted and more people going hungry.

Tyikwe said increased load-shedding, especially stage 6 and stage 8, will lead to higher levels of crime because of civil unrest and service delivery problems.

She said with prolonged power outages, shops will have to close, and there will be increased food wastage. It will also impact food security.

Load-shedding further increases the operational cost for food retailers, which is passed on to consumers.

Food inflation is devastating to many South Africans who rely on social grants and are already stretched to make ends meet.

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa wants the government to speed up the process of getting new power onto the grid.

Tyikwe said they want the government to streamline the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA’s) compliance processes to reduce the time for independent power producers (IPPs) to come onto the grid.

It currently takes between 18 months and two years for a new IPP to get approval to provide Eskom with power.

She said South Africa urgently needs alternative power sources to come onto the grid to reduce load-shedding.

Pick n Pay CEO Pieter Boone

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa’s concerns echo warnings from Pick n Pay’s CEO Pieter Boone and chairman Gareth Ackerman.

Boone warned South Africa is at increased risk of food shortages and social unrest as load-shedding moves to higher stages.

Boone said if South Africa goes to stage 8 load-shedding, food manufacturing will suffer, and South Africa will experience a food shortage.

“It is no longer a question of pricing, but rather whether you can secure stock to serve your customers,” he said.

He added that higher stages of load-shedding also affect the water supply in many parts of the country.

When people struggle to get food and water, it causes severe social problems and can lead to civil unrest.

“That is my biggest fear – potential social unrest. We cannot afford a second wave of social unrest in South Africa,” he said.

Ackerman said he feels compelled to caution that the entire food industry in South Africa is under existential threat.

“The probability of social unrest relating to food shortages and possible store closures, if blackouts get too high, is now heightened,” he said.


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