South Africa’s major food headache – and government’s plan to fix it

 ·10 Oct 2023

Food losses and waste have serious environmental, social and economic ramifications, but the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is doing something about it.

The Department has opened the Draft Strategy for Reducing Food Losses and Waste for public comment, and Garyn Rapson and Lerato Molefi from Webber Wentzel have unpacked the importance of this strategy.

Over 31% of South Africa’s food production is estimated to be lost or wasted yearly despite millions of South Africans going hungry.

However, food losses also create severe environmental and economic crises, with losses occurring across the whole supply chain, from production to disposal.

“This challenge is particularly critical because of widespread food insecurity and the environmental impact of wasted resources,” the experts said.

New proposals

Amidst the food waste problem, the experts broke down the critical elements of the new draft strategy:

  • Prevention and reduction: The strategy prioritises preventing and reducing food losses and waste at all supply chain stages. This includes supporting sustainable agricultural practices, improved storage facilities and efficient distribution systems. Reducing food loss and waste at the source, from farm to fork, is both cost-effective and environmentally responsible.

  • Behaviour change through education: changing consumer behaviour is central to the success of this strategy. Raising awareness about the consequences of food waste and the importance of responsible consumption is essential.

  • Partnerships: Working with various stakeholders, including government agencies, food producers, retailers and NGOs, is crucial to implementing effective food waste reduction initiatives.

  • Regulation and incentives: The strategy explores the possibility of regulations and incentives to encourage responsible disposal and practices. However, there are already comprehensive organic waste management laws and regulations in place under the National Environmental Management: Waste Act. 

  • Monitoring and reporting: Comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanisms are crucial for tracking progress and holding stakeholders accountable. Finding areas with the highest food losses and waste will help tailor effective interventions.

The success of this strategy will have several benefits.

For instance, resources, such as water, energy and land, can be conserved while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from decomposing food waste in landfills.

There is also an economic benefit as less food waste leads to savings for households, businesses and the country.

It also ensures food security as losses are minimised on the supply chain, with more food getting to those in need.

Comments on the strategy must be submitted to  [email protected] by 20 October 2023

 The Draft Strategy for Reducing Food Losses and Waste can be found here.

Read: Calls to exempt more food items from VAT in South Africa – Godongwana responds

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