Joint Publications

Trade, food and nutrition security in South Africa: The cases of sugar and poultry

Published 9 October 2017, by Greenberg et al

Publication: PLAAS Working Paper 44

The purpose of this paper is to consider the role that trade plays in food and nutrition security in South Africa. Despite an established commercial food system, South Africans experience high levels of food and nutrition insecurity – both under-nutrition and rising rates of diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines food security as ‘a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’.

This paper considers three dimensions of food security – availability, access and nutrition – and unpacks the role of trade across these dimensions at policy level and in practice in sugar and poultry, two key commodities in the food basket of resource-poor South African households. The paper starts with an overview of the global trade regime within which South Africa operates. It then looks at how trade is situated in current agricultural, food and nutrition security policy, with an overview of agro-food trade in South Africa and trends over the past decade.

The core of the paper focuses on sugar and poultry, for more detailed investigation, providing an overview of: commodity specific trade and regulatory regimes; trade and production impacts on availability; employment and livelihoods in relation to trade dynamics; trade impacts on nutrition and health in the specific commodities; and reflections on the role of trade in these selected commodities.

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