SA ranked number one in Africa for food security – DA

Annette Steyn says, however, we rank poorly among middle income countries

Annette Steyn

Three policy proposals to strengthen SA food security

The Food Security Index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit yesterday ranks South Africa 40th out of 105 countries in terms of food security. We rank a weak 13th out of 28 comparable middle-income countries, far behind Chile, Russia and Mexico, who occupy the first three places. That we rank number one in Africa is a dismal reflection on the rest of the continent (see Business Day report).

The truth is that food security is a prerequisite to economic growth and job creation. You cannot educate a hungry child, and you cannot hope for productive employment if citizens are going without food. South Africa therefore simply has to do better. If government is serious about creating jobs, as it claims, it will move with urgency to implement our suggestions below.

The DA proposes three policy interventions that will enhance food security in South Africa:

First, the Agricultural Marketing Council (AMC) must immediately establish a grain tracking database. The DA has been calling for such a device for nearly one year now, and the AMC must report back on the meeting that was meant to have taken place yesterday in this respect. A grain tracking database will serve to establish improved information symmetry – farmers will know at any given time what volume of maize is where and to whom it belongs. This helps to plan better and ensure local food security so as to avoid over-exporting (cheaply) and then having to import (expensively) when local supply runs out due to under-planting.

Second, land under communal tenure in the former homelands has to be converted to individual title deed. Without such a move to secure property rights across vast swathes of arable land, food security will remain tenuous and at least 17 million South Africans will continue to eke out a mere subsistence living.

Finally, government must work harder to secure regional prosperity. It has sat idly by and watched the Mugabe regime, for instance, obliterate what was once called the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa. It cannot be that part of South Africa’s agricultural success is a function of us being an indirect beneficiary of aid organisations purchasing our maize to feed famine-stricken nations north of our borders. Government has to take a tougher stand against its Southern African Development Community (SADC) partners when they fail to provide the kind of political stability that is necessary to ensure sufficient agricultural productivity to create food security.

These policy interventions will simultaneously catalyse regional prosperity and local economic growth, from which innumerable benefits will be derived.

We challenge the government to show the necessary courage to implement these proposals.

Statement issued by Annette Steyn MP, DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, July 11 2012

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