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Covid-19 exposed weaknesses in SA's food systems: agriculture minister, Thoko Didiza

14 June 2021 - 16:39 By aphiwe deklerk
Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza. File photo.
Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza. File photo.
Image: SA Gov via Twitter

Agriculture, land affairs and rural development minister Thoko Didiza says the Covid-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in the country's “food systems”.

Speaking during a webinar she was hosting on youth in agriculture, the minister said: “Our logistic systems, particularly on food delivery, also showed their weaknesses.

“We saw the challenges that a number of vulnerable communities in our rural areas, our informal areas and in our townships at times did not access their food at the time at which they would have wanted to. All of these, in my view, were a reminder that our food systems are weak and therefore it needs strengthening.”

Didiza said the pandemic highlighted the need for greater food security in SA.

“Covid-19 has laid bare the fault lines that remain in our agricultural sector. The continued inequality made it difficult, particularly for smallholder farmers, to absorb the shocks caused by Covid-19.”

She said the pandemic hit the country when it was battling with other challenges. “We were already experiencing challenges of climate change in our country. We were experiencing floods in some of the regions, as well as drought in others,” she said.

The government ensured that the agriculture sector remained an essential service during the pandemic to continue providing food security, she said.

There were other interventions put in place in the sector during the pandemic to alleviate difficulties brought by the lockdown, she added. These included paying Covid-19 relief funds, especially to smallholder farmers, while provinces continued to give drought relief to those affected.

“It is important for us to look at how do we prepare for the future, living with the pandemic and maybe other challenges we are going to face in the future.”

Didiza said it was important to relook at how the country and the world treated its health system as one, from animal to human, given that Covid-19 came from animals and later affected humans.

The country also needed to strengthen its biosecurity, she said. Diseases like swine flu, avian flu and foot-and-mouth had a serious impact on the economy.

“Continuous surveillance must be undertaken so that we can track the diseases.”