Small-scale farmers, fishers still suffering from COVID impact: study

The study on the impact of COVID-19 on South Africa's food system focuses on fresh produce in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and fish in the Western Cape.

Summer fishing in Kalk Bay, Cape Town. Picture: Leah Rolando/Primedia

CAPE TOWN - The COVID-19 pandemic has led to huge losses for small-scale farmers, fishers and traders, while consumers have had to deal with rising food inflation.

These are the findings of new research produced by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape.

The study on the impact of COVID-19 on South Africa's food system focuses on fresh produce in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and fish in the Western Cape.

UWC's professor Ruth Hall said small-scale black farmers, many of whom were hindered by a lack of capital and fair access to markets, faced increased input costs, transport, labour and input disruptions, as well as reduced market demand.

“Some of the suppliers that supply high-end markets like tourists and restaurants, because these places also had to close down during lockdowns, are making it hard for them to sell their produce.”

She said food price inflation had vastly outpaced consumer price inflation ever since the lockdown was introduced in March last year.

“These increasing costs that have been passed on to consumers are not necessarily supporting the small-scale farmers and fishers who many have been squeezed out in the interim.”

Hall said while a lot of the food people eat was produced by commercial farms, a huge number of people derive their livelihoods from small scale farming and small-scale fishing.

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