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Food shortages set to grip SA after rioters rampage

Agricultural union estimates losses for KZN farming community to be in the hundreds of millions of rands.

South Africans are expected to face major food shortages in the wake of days of violent unrest across two key provinces, as rioters upend supply chains by looting supermarkets and torching goods trucks.

Footage of empty or sparse grocery-store shelves has been a staple of local news reports since the weekend, while chains such as Shoprite Holdings Ltd. and Pick n Pay Stores Ltd. closed many outlets altogether. In parts of Durban, the coastal KwaZulu-Natal city at the center of the upheaval, long queues formed outside the few open food shops and basics such as bread and milk were in short supply.

“Food is going to be a problem because shops haven’t been open for three days and many with bulk storage have been looted,” said Gavin Hudson, chief executive officer of sugar producer Tongaat Hulett Ltd., which has suspended milling and refining operations outside the city. “We are going to face some food issues in KwaZulu-Natal very shortly.”

The unrest started as protests against the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma, but soon degenerated into deadly and destructive rampages in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the economic hub. Rioters pilfered food, electronic goods and medical supplies from at least 800 stores, and retailers have lost an estimated R5 billion to date, according to the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa. Beer depots and liquor stores, already unable to operate due to a ban to contain the pandemic, have also been a target.

Trucks destroyed
More than 35 trucks have been destroyed, with a cost to logistics firms of at least 300 million rand and counting, the Road Freight Association estimates. That’s led to the closing of a key highway between Durban and Johannesburg, cutting off the flow of food and other essential goods from the country’s biggest port to its most populous city.


Citrus farmers are in mid-export season and are among those unable to harvest and transport their produce, Christo van der Rheede, executive director of AgriSA, said in an interview. Sugarcane fields have been razed and livestock stolen, and commitments on exports that bring in crucial foreign exchange and support jobs may not be met, he said.

Kwanalu, the KwaZulu-Natal agricultural union, estimates the losses for the provincial farming community to be in the hundreds of millions of rands.

“South Africans are very fortunate to receive fresh fruit, fresh meat, fresh vegetables on a daily basis,” Van der Rheede said. “If these supply chains are disrupted, there won’t be fresh produce in stores and people will have to rely on frozen supplies. But what do we do if we run out of that as well?”

The food crisis is developing more than 18 months into a coronavirus pandemic that’s led to a spike in hunger around the world. As many as 811 million people — about a 10th of the global population — were undernourished in 2020, the United Nations said in a report on Monday.

Meanwhile, international prices are close to their 2011 peak and still rising, with South Africa just outside the top 20 nations most vulnerable to food-related violence, Ziad Daoud and Felipe Hernandez of Bloomberg Economics said in a July 12 note. Food inflation in the country hit 6.8% in May, the fastest pace in almost five years.

While the crisis may have its roots in support for Zuma, the scale of the outbreak has also been linked to years of poor government services and a record unemployment rate of 32.6%. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, underlying a high crime rate, and President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday described the violence as “opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft.”

A small blessing is that the riots are localised in two specific provinces, but the problem will escalate if the violence spreads, said Van der Rheede. If that happens, the country’s entire food logistics network would be jeopardised.

“The last thing that we want is for South Africans to experience hunger, food shortages and starvation,” he said.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

COMMENTS   8

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Too bad the majority of SA’s population are unable to appreciate the irony of their own actions. Maybe its time they realised that the misery and deprivations of which they constantly complain are largely self-inflicted.

So true. The ANC has been stealing for decades, destroying jobs, businesses and livelihoods with stupid policies. But they have been fairly and freely voted into power despite open knowledge of these sad facts.

So now voters-you must realize what a democracy is-take responsibility for the results of your votes.

To those that can flee-SAM says-run for the hills -we are a failed state losing a two front war-covid and stealing!

You would have thought “leadership” would have pointed this out to the people.

Where is the King?? We know that this is a Cyril and anc plan so don’t expect anything from them.

The king needs guidance from Prince Gatsha as these anc fools will con him into staying quiet.

We need to ensure the anc don’t get what they want.

They must now be forced into asking for peacekeepers from the UN (UNTAG) and a government of national unity needs to be formed immediately.

You just have to listen to Zizi Kodwa. Comon lair saying it is poor people. Its not just poor people. There are more high end cars at looting sites than people on foot.

Be careful.

This is Cyril and his anc cohorts plan that is going wrong.

PASOP!!!! They call it “economic reset”!!!!

Stole the fridge but will soon not have anything to put in it !!!!!

Lets get things straight here, look at any index and you will find SA at one of the extreme polar ends, Zuma’s imprisonment was just an excuse by the average anc voter to act in the same way he and his corrupt organisation did for so many years.

What is the difference between R1 and R1bil, very little actually a thief is a thief, a liar a liar and a murder a murder just because one took more than the other does not make the lesser any more innocent.

This country has been teetering on edge for quite some time, a car crash in slow motion as one economist put it, all we are seeing is the outcome of years of delayed justice and fudged numbers.

The turn around plan needed requires far more pain and suffering before all stakeholders actually buy into the plan.

The race and victim card are overplayed…

End of comments.

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