Mzansi Agriculture Talk

Covid-19 Watch

Observing the month of hunger

World Hunger Month officially kickstarted on the 1st May. Irony of this month is not lost as the global effect of coronavirus pandemic is steadily causing social unrest in Beirut and Afghanistan. 

Closer to home, reports are awash with people queuing and fighting for food parcels. This according to Food Forward SA was a recipe for chaos. 

“While it is anyone’s guess at this stage what the overall impact of COVID-19 will be, it is safe to assume that the COVID-19 collision will be severe and far reaching, both in the short and long term. People relying on social grants will now have to stretch this meagre amount to help more family members” said its Managing Director Andy Du Plessis. 

Statistics SA recently released its weekly prices of essential products which showed a decrease by 0,1% between the weeks ending 16 and 23 April 2020. 

It arguably came as a relief for middle income earners as five of the nine food categories decreased in the most recent week, including bread and cereals (-0,2%), meat (-0,5%) and vegetables (-1,8%). 

“Bread and cereal products decreased by 0,2% in the week ending 23 April. Rice prices dropped by 2,8%, sweet biscuits by 2,6% and frozen pastry products by 11,4%. An 8,2% decrease in prices for cheddar cheese contributed to a weekly decrease in the milk, eggs and cheese index” commented Stats SA, Chief Director of Price Statistics, Patrick Kelly. 

The decline of such prices still bared no relevance to the hunger conditions expected to rise. Earlier in April, President Cyril Ramaphosa, as part of governments’ R500 billion relief package, had announced that child grant would be increased by R300 in May, and R500 from June to October respectively.

Food Forward SA had put out a public R50 million COVID-19 Food Security Appeal as a response to the likelihood of more people having less access to food. 

“These funds will ensure that in the next 4 – 6 months we distribute critical food provisions to at-risk BOs, including the elderly, disabled, people affected with HIV/AIDS and TB, Orphans and vulnerable children, and vulnerable families through community feeding programmes” said Du Plessis. 

Food Forward SA had also partnered with many agricultural companies who have so far made R12 million in food donations. 

“Since the commencement of the lock down we have distributed R1,8m worth of food to over 60,000 at-risk people via 150 of our most vulnerable BOs across the country” he said. 

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development had assured South Africans that amid the unprecedented uncertainty against the COVID-19 pandemic, “we are assured of sufficient food supply for the country at reasonable price levels” it said in a statement. 

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