PwC has warned that South Africa is at risk of heightened food insecurity with load-shedding, adverse weather, and deteriorating infrastructure disrupting the country’s food supply.
This is from the financial advisory firm’s South Africa Economic Outlook, released in June, where it discussed how businesses could respond to the difficulties of the current economic conditions.
According to the Global Food Security Index, South Africa ranks 52 of 113 countries for food availability.
PwC is concerned that this may deteriorate towards the end of 2023 with food inflation at a 14-year high, making basic staples unaffordable, and increased disruptions to the agricultural sector.
Of particular concern are the elevated levels of load-shedding, which also affect the water supply on farms, as a third of South African farms rely on electricity to pump water for irrigation.
This disrupts the food supply, making it increasingly difficult for retailers to consistently source food at affordable prices.
PwC’s warning echoes that of Pitso Sekhoto of the African Farmers Association of South Africa, who warned that the country would reach a point where food supply cannot be guaranteed.
This is due to deteriorating infrastructure preventing farmers from getting their produce to market.
“We are in a very, very bad situation because of authorities not doing what they are supposed to do” and the local government’s failure to maintain critical infrastructure.
Sekhoto said municipalities and provincial governments are responsible for South African agriculture’s mess.
Farmers are struggling to get their produce to market and increasingly struggling to get supplies, with diesel being particularly difficult to source.
“If we do not fix these problems, we will reach a point where we are food insecure in South Africa.”
Weather is also a looming threat, with South Africa entering the El Niño season with irregular weather expected throughout winter.
This threatens the harvest of the country’s winter crops, such as wheat, canola, barley, and oats.
The combination of these factors threatens South Africa’s food supply and subsequently social cohesion, PwC said.
There is a risk that social cohesion will break down as it did in July 2021, as it is on a negative trend, according to the firm.
PwC called on the private sector to play a larger role in helping the public sector address socio-economic challenges.