For many years, South Africa has prided itself as the most food-secure country in the African continent and has also ranked relatively well with its peer BRICS countries. But disappointingly, the results of the 2020 Global Food Security Index recently released by The Economist and Corteva show that South Africa has regressed. South Africa is now ranked 69th most food-secure country out of 113 countries, from 44 (out of 113) in 2019. Technically, South Africa’s scoring dropped by just a point from last year’s position (scoring 57,8 down by 1,4 from 2019 in the Global Food Security Index). Still, other countries improved notably, resulting in a drop in South Africa’s ranking.

The Global Food Security Index is comprised of four significant sub-indices, namely; (1) food affordability, (2) food availability, (3) food quality and safety, and (4) natural resources and resilience. The affordability and availability have a higher weighting of a combined two-thirds (each 32,4%). In 2020, South Africa experienced a sharp deterioration in the food affordability sub-index (a 5,5 drop), while all other subindices improved marginally. Notably, the major challenge was an overall increase in food prices and a deterioration in South Africa’s food safety net programmes.

These results are unsurprising. The ‘third wave’ of the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) published on 17 February also pointed to a rise in hunger in 2020. Moreover, South Africa’s overall food price inflation also started rising in the last quarter of 2020, averaging 5,8% y/y, from an average of 4,3% y/y in the first three quarters of the year. This challenge speaks to the rising costs of food in an environment where more people were out of work.

This is an extract from my weekly column for Fin24, and you can read the full article by clicking here.

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). 

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