South Africa: Eskom Hikes Create Move from Maize to Rice
The hike in electricity costs is making an impact on the food choices of South African households, a new report shows.
The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline, released on Friday, for instance, looked at the results of focus groups held by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action, which revealed that electricity cost increases were changing the eating habits of residents in lower income households.
More South African consumers seem to be moving away from maize meal to rice, because rice has a shorter cooking time.
The BFAP Baseline 2015 found that the cost of healthy eating is climbing faster than inflation in South Africa. Between January 2011 and April 2015, the cost of a healthy eating plan for a family of four rose by 36%.
It also found that household income is rising, but so are debt levels. The average household income increased from R6 928 in 2009 to R10 525 in 2014.
The report emphasised that South Africa must focus on growing the production of agri-processed goods to decrease its R21bn trade deficit in this area.
“South Africa traditionally uses foreign suppliers to process our own produce, which adds a cost to the final product for local consumers,” said Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde at the release of the report.
When researchers studied the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ figures of the average import versus export values between 2006 and 2010, they noted a major deficit.
“Part of our strategy to grow the size of the agri-processing sector is looking at how we can reduce imports, where possible, by promoting local products. With the cost of healthy eating increasing, opting for local produce will give consumers welcome relief,” said Winde.
The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has developed an agri-processing index, which ranks the best products in terms of employment potential and performance in local and global markets.
“Project Khulisa has identified agri-processing as a key growth sector, presenting a significant opportunity to increase jobs in rural areas. Under a high-growth scenario, this sector could add up to 100 000 jobs to the local economy over the next five years,” said Winde.
The report shows the importance of trade with the rest of Africa. In 2014, South Africa’s exports of agricultural products were worth R104bn. African markets are a key driver of this growth. Over the past 13 years, SA’s exports to Africa grew by 14%, compared to the EU which saw an 8% increase.
“This study allows us to map patterns like these and assess whether our programmes are responsive to global trends. I would like to encourage the private sector to consider this report in making their own plans,” said Winde.