Shoprite warns of food insecurity in South Africa

By 2025, nearly half of South Africa’s population will be food insecure, with 48.96% potentially not having enough to eat.

This is from new research commissioned by Shoprite, with its Food Index released this week, which aims to push South Africa to address food insecurity. 

Limpopo will suffer the worst food insecurity, with 54% of the population unsure where their next meal will come from. 

Although the numbers will be better in the Western Cape and Gauteng, they are still high at 41% and 47%, respectively.

How hunger affects urban and rural populations varies from province to province. For example, 13% of food-insecure people in the Western Cape will be in rural areas and 87% in urban centres. 

By contrast, 59% of potentially hungry people in the Eastern Cape will reside in rural areas.

However, the incidence of people escaping food insecurity is improving. In 2020, 52% of South Africa was food insecure. 

The projections for 2025 show this declining to just under 49%.

According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), it’s easier to solve hunger than to deal with the problems it creates. 

As well as contributing to societal instability, hunger also limits economic development. 

Where it is not addressed, children’s cognitive and physical development can be affected, ultimately contributing to an ongoing cycle of poverty.

“The numbers in the Food Index are unacceptably high, and the trickle of people escaping food insecurity too low,” the head of sustainability at Shoprite, Sanjeev Raghubir, said. 

Sanjeev Raghubir, head of sustainability and CSI at the Shoprite Group

This research supports comments made by Consumer Goods Council CEO Zinhle Tyikwe, who said that the sector is under severe pressure from the rising cost of doing business. 

Tyikwe said that members of the Council have spent R1.5 billion on alternative power sources since the intensity of load-shedding ramped up towards the end of 2022. 

This has exacerbated the existing high cost of doing business in the country. 

“It has just become so difficult for businesses to operate in South Africa due to infrastructure challenges, crime, logistical inefficiencies, and load-shedding,” Tyikwe said. 

“We are finding that municipalities are struggling to remain functional and the basic services needed for food producers to operate.”

Speaking at the Consumer Goods Council’s annual summit, Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman echoed Tyikwe’s concerns that the cost of doing business has skyrocketed in South Africa. 

This has limited the ability of companies to operate profitability, create value, and invest for growth and employment creation.

“The challenge is that the government is not doing its job properly, and we now have to help it in doing things for which we are paying tax for it to be done,” Ackerman said.

“We need to ensure water, electricity, potholes and sewerage are repaired and work. We have to deal with crime and poor service delivery. These are unbelievably depressing things, yet they are basics.”

He noted that the port and rail infrastructure is incredibly ineffective, forcing the consumer goods sector to use expensive road freight, damaging roads.

Business insurance has also increased nearly twofold following the 2021 riots, whilst salary and wage increases have not improved with the rising cost of living.

“It has become a lethal cocktail which needs to be adequately addressed by the government, working together with business to get things going on to grow the economy,” said Ackerman.