The effect of the Coronavirus on South Africa’s food supply chain

The effect of the Coronavirus on South Africa’s food supply chain

As the Coronavirus pandemic shuts down businesses and sends countries into lockdown, what does this mean for our food supply chains and food security? 

Although supermarket shelves remain stocked for now, the Coronavirus crisis could put a strain on complex food supply chains around the globe. With borders closing, movements restricted and disruptions in the shipping and aviation industries, the nature of food production and transportation have changed. This means that countries with few alternative food sources could be at high risk. Already, fears about the Coronavirus’ potential disruptions to global supply chains have led to ‘panic buying’ in a number of countries.

In the last few weeks, Tiger Brands experienced a 60% spike in pasta volumes. This is because South Africans were stockpiling non-perishable items before lockdown in fear of food availability issues. Since the lockdown began, however, the sale of essential goods has normalised people’s pantries are stocked and they’ve realised that essential food items are still available in supermarkets. 

South Africa’s short- to medium-term food supply 

Wandile Sihlobo, head of agribusiness research at Agriculture Business Chamber (Agbiz), recently said in a market update that South Africa is likely to escape the food shortages affecting other countries such as Italy, Australia and Iran. 

Here’s why:

  • South Africa is generally a net exporter of agricultural and food products, and is therefore low-risk in terms of food shortages.
  • There are also prospects for an abundant harvest of staple grains and fruit this year, which will increase local supplies.

Sihlobo said that any potential food shortages are more likely to be caused by glitches in the logistics of shipping imports rather than a decline in global essential grains supplies.

What essential food products do we import?

Although South Africa is unlikely to face food shortages, we do import some essential food products such as rice, wheat and palm oil. Most of the countries that supply these items have been affected by COVID-19. However, since some of these countries have not taken drastic measures to limit business activity, importation could continue as normal. 

South Africa also imports sunflower oil and poultry products, but these products can be replaced by local supplies seamlessly should there be disruptions in global supply chains.

What about exports? 

South Africa’s export-orientated agricultural sector is heavily reliant on global markets. It’s estimated that the sector could lose as much as R39.23 billion in export revenue due to the outbreak. Some of this shortfall could be made up by increased local reliability, but there’s no doubt that South Africa’s exporters will suffer.

Now, more than ever, farmers and agribusiness need to look to long-term solutions and move towards more sustainable methods and practices to save costs, promote profitability and remain future-fit. 

Zylem is an essential supplier

As an essential services organisation, Zylem is operating through the lockdown. We are working remotely, but we are managing to effectively oversee the deliveries of several loads of seed potatoes, both locally and to Zimbabwe. We’re also ensuring that our manufacturers and distributors are fully functional to maintain the supply of our biofertilisers wherever they’re required.

We will all be contactable on our cellphones and emails within working hours, during the entire lockdown period:

Justin Platt – 083 264 6816 – justinp@zylemsa.co.za

Gill Platt – 082 577 4040 – gillp@zylemsa.co.za

Brenda Coleman – 083 443 4161 – admin@zylemsa.co.za

Estelle Schoeman – 082 443 3170 – admin2@zylemsa.co.za

Our Technical Junior Manager, Nosipho Mbele, is on maternity leave; for any technical queries please contact Justin Platt.

Find out more about our services and solutions: https://www.zylemsa.co.za/

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