The reason for millions of people in South Africa suffering from food shortages is not because of food shortages, but rather because of lack of access, says Mr Mike Mlengana, director general of the department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), about 14.3 million people in South Africa are affected by food insecurity. This is the highest number for all the countries in the Southern African Development Agency (SADC).
The FAO, who addressed parliament on the impact of climate change in agriculture, said there is no change in the number of people experiencing food insecurities in the past two financial years.
In the 2010/’11 financial year, about 14.5 million South Africans suffered from food insecurity. The number decreases to 12.8 million in the next financial year, but increased again to 14.3 million in both the 2015/’16 and 2016/’17 financial years.
The SADC country with the second highest value regarding the number of people experiencing food insecurity, is the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 7.5 million, followed by Zimbabwe with 4 million people.
Ms Rosina Semenya, chair of the portfolio committee, asked why food insecurity again increased to 14 million people, when the number of people decreased in the 2011/’12 financial year.
Mlengana explained that the decrease is attributed to state grants.
“Our problems with food insecurity are not because of production insufficiencies, but access to food. This is why more people in urban area experiences food insecurity than people in rural areas.”
He said the expanding population also contributed to the increase to 14.3 million people suffering from hunger.
Mr Lewis Hove, FAO representative in South Africa, said poor rainfall caused people to plant later in the season, and had a diminutive effect on harvests. The combination of low output in 2015 and limited access to input materials caused the maize prices to double in value compared to average prices.