CoE Articles

Colloquium tackles ‘Competition, Concentration and Employment in the Food Sector’

Published August 23, 2017, by Mologadi Makwela

South Africa has seen a rapid reduction in the number of farming units since deregulation in the 1980s, and increasing concentration at the processing, distribution and retail levels of the agricultural value chain.

Researchers, activists and students have gathered at the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Competition Regulation and Economic Development (CCRED) for a two day colloquium to discuss challenges facing the South African and African food system.

The global food system is characterised by increasing concentration and financialisation. This is also true for South Africa where there has been a rapid reduction in the number of farming units since deregulation in the 1980s and increasing concentration at the processing, distribution and retail levels of the agricultural value chain.

There have also been numerous cases of cartel conduct and unilateral abuse of market power in this sector. In some markets; notably fertiliser, seeds, and retail, similar competition concerns are evident across the region and so too, are the firms that perpetrate them.

Several researchers across southern Africa are evaluating the effects of concentration, market power and financialisation on workers, firms and farmers in the food sector. The two day colloquium, jointly hosted by CCRED, the Centre of Excellence in Food Security and PLAAS, will provide opportunities for researchers to share key areas of their work with the view to identifying common questions and joint research opportunities.

Presentations on the first day will provide insights on the impact of competition and concentration on health across Southern Africa, as well as explore regional dynamics in food system concentration. Day two of the colloquium will see presenters unpack issues of employment dynamics in food systems, urban development planning/spatial dynamics as well as the impact of food system changes on food (access), nutrition, inequality and well-being.

The colloquium will also work towards formulating practical policy proposals for food systems across the region.

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