Engaging with the Academy and Civil Society on Food Price Affordability
Category : Archived News
Over the past month, in addition to the numerous media engagements, we made presentations on food price affordability at a seminar organised by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape; at the Association for Dietetics in SA conference in Durban; and at the OXFAM SA drought research workshop hosted by the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) in Pietermaritzburg.The seminar at PLAAS (Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies) was entitled “Food Price Affordability: An indicator of the crisis in our economy?” and was attended by 25 academics and students working in the area of food security and poverty alleviation. The objective of this engagement was to explore the impact of food price affordability on household food insecurity and to make the case that without food price affordability poverty cycles at household levels deepen. The main measure that can ensure affordability, in the South African context, is to move the economy from its present low-wage and increasing unemployment trajectory and ensure sufficient income for households. The presentation presented the food price inflation for the past year as measured by the PACSA Food Price Barometer. During this period the cost of the PACSA Food Basket has increased by 14% to R1879.00. This increase has to be considered in the context of very low wages. The minimum wage across sectoral determination is R2362.00 for 2014. The majority of low-income households struggle to afford a basic basket of nutritious food thus compromising their health, well-being, productivity and dignity. Food prices, rand-value expenditure on food, and food expenditure as a proportion of income is therefore a proxy for the deep crisis around incomes, wage levels and the cost of goods and services in the economy. See some of the tweets from the seminar at https://twitter.com/plaasuwc PACSA’s input at the Association for Dietetics in SA conference in Durban focussed on the cost of a balanced and nutritional diet for a low-income household. In the presentation we presented the PACSA Minimum Nutritional Basket and compared this with the foods that households try and buy every month. This data shows the substantial inadequacy of household incomes which results in an underspent of 56% on nutrition and therefore compromises and exacerbates health and well-being of a large portion of South African households. The conversation which followed the presentation highlighted the gap in awareness of how much nutritional food costs and the struggles facing households to secure sufficient nutritious food. The OXFAM SA drought research workshop was attended by 6 NGO’s operating in KwaZulu-Natal and focussed on the impact of the current drought and potential advocacy strategies in response. The workshop agreed that the drought has severe impact on households, farm workers and small scale farmers. Depending on where people are positioned in society the impact of the drought varies. A household will see the effect in increased food prices while a small scale farmer could lose their entire livelihood. One of the advocacy strategies touted at the workshop was to secure the maize price because of its importance in ensuring that the core staple food is affordable. Another avenue is to look at whether social grants are sufficient for poor households to absorb the impact of food price inflation. Another suggestion was to work towards improving basic animal health and plant health which would allow small scale farmers top increase their production whilst being more resilient in the face of crisis. These interactions affirm for us that the Food Price Barometer research is a useful tool to reflect the experience of food price affordability in low-income households and therefore contributes to our understanding and analysis of access to food within the broader economy and its impact on our social, health and educational outcomes.