• V&A Waterfront

The evolution of the South African food industry | EP04

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic having a huge impact on the South African culinary industry, businesses in this sector have been forced to adapt quickly. But, it is not only the restaurants that are being affected, our local food producers have also felt the direct implications as everyone in the supply chain and production line suffers financially.

This has left South Africans wondering, what does the future of food look like in our country? This theme was recently explored during the fourth episode of a six-part webinar series, hosted by the V&A Waterfront as an extension of their 100 Beautiful Things campaign.

Food as a medium is something that everyone consumes and is somewhat accessible to most people. “Food is a sort of vehicle, you get on board and utilise it to find information. It tells us about people, history and gives us access to communities. Food is doorway to culture and stories”, explained Ishay Govender, journalist and Founder of SA POC at the Table.

Although food is a basic need that the human body requires in order to survive, food security is a major problem that South Africa continues to face. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a lot of these inequalities and studies have shown that it is expected to double the number of people that don’t have access to food to 28 million people globally.

“I hope that this pandemic also accelerates solutions that combats food security in South Africa,” said panellist Hannerie Visser, Founder of Studio H.

So, what is the answer? With the unemployment rate rising the solution may be one which centres around people shifting their mind-sets as to what ‘good food’ is.

Mokgadi Itsweng, chef and food expert explained: “People need to become more reliant on a mainly plant-based diet in order for us to survive. We need to look at sustainable methods that are going to be affordable in the long run and empower people to be self-sustainable, so that they do not depend on others when it comes to food. Empowering communities to grow and produce food for both consumption and for sale is the way forward.”

There is a growing trend of consumers wanting to support local, small scale farmers who produce ethically sourced foods. An example of this is community sourced agriculture (CSA) bags, which have recently seen taking off around the world. These businesses are selling world-class, quality produce, direct from small producers. “However, when it comes to these small-scale farmers everything that is associated in becoming a successful brand is lacking. You can have a great product, but if there is no budget for marketing or logistical then the businesses will struggle,” added Govender.

The good news is that many online stores have tapped into this market and are helping local food producers to market and sell their fresh produce. As there has also been an increase in online shopping during lockdown a number of platforms have been made available for consumers to access local products without having to leave their homes.

Below are some great examples:

Although consumers go to great lengths so source organic food, many fail to ask the important questions.

“The missing part of this conversation around local producers is that we don’t question the labour practices enough. We are not asking about the labourers on the farm and the wages of the packers,” said Govender.

With the consumer being more proactive and with many having a lot more buying power, we can move towards having access to a wider variety of local sustainable food. If the demand is high enough, supermarkets will be forced to stock shelves with locally produced food.

Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel:

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