Agriculture Down, on the farm
One of the less-documented effects of the pandemic has been the damage to the informal trade sector and thus to associated suppliers, a result of the Government’s closure of the sector as COVID hit. This has had major effects on food supply to consumers in the townships, on the businesses themselves, and on their agricultural suppliers. Of South Africa’s 30,000 commercial farms, just 6,000 of them produce 80% of our food. Pickings are slim indeed for the other 24,000, which lack the capacity to supply the big six retailers, and sell their wares to independent wholesalers, buyer groups, cash & carries, independent retailers, spazas, street vendors, schools, directly to consumers, and to fresh produce markets. One such, the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market, sells 60% of its produce to township suppliers and consumers, and saw a major decline over the period.
Comment: Commendably, most of the major chains now have active and growing small supplier programs, aimed at increasing their purchases from the businesses while building their capacity. But more can be done to protect this vulnerable sector, particularly by Government.