When there is no more food on the tables…


While I put my “quick-bake” meatballs in the oven to quickly get the green beans and pumpkin into their respective pots, the potatoes are pre-cooked in the microwave for a quick five minutes before they are fan potatoes also go to the oven.

One’s mind then wanders between consumer and farmer, because here where I am busy in the kitchen as a farmer, I am now also the consumer.

With so many issues dominating the discussions in boardrooms worldwide, one realizes anew that perhaps not enough attention is paid to the relationship between farmer and consumer. Here at TLU SA we have been saying all these years that the two important role players in the value chain are certainly the farmer and the consumer.

All the other people in the value chain have a role to play, but without the farmer and the consumer they have no role. The importance of consumer and farmer cannot be underestimated – the two are each in their own right indeed essential for the other to exist. When there is no more food on the tables that day, a revolution will break out very quickly; on the other hand, the farmer will not be able to do anything with all the food in the world if there is no market, in other words the consumers who buy the products.

Of course we say thank you to all the role players who each make a contribution in their own way to help ensure that sufficient quality food is produced and distributed to where it is needed. The distance between farmer and consumer gives many institutions the opportunity to get involved and help with many of the aspects that have an influence on the smooth and effective production and supply of food to finally be able to say that there is food on the table .

Food security is probably one of the most strategic aspects that any responsible government should pursue. Food security is not only about the production of food and whether there is sufficient food available in the country, but also about its quality, availability and affordability.

Many people in South Africa and around the world go to bed hungry. There is concern about the physical and mental development of children who do not eat a balanced diet. Children who suffer from stunted growth never recover properly and will remain behind in their development for the rest of their lives.

Viewed in this light, the greatest asset any country can have today is indeed its productive commercial farmers. In South Africa we already have around 68% of our country’s inhabitants who are urban. One would therefore expect that the government would do everything in its power to create an environment where the commercial farmers can carry out their task with as few obstacles as possible.

The distance between consumer and farmer is in many cases unnecessarily long and every institution that plays a role within it brings with it an additional cost factor. As TLU SA already started the Pretoria Farmers’ Market years ago with great success to shorten precisely that distance, every community in the country can examine it to see if they cannot also start a similar market according to their needs and unique circumstances. Any community is welcome to come and light a candle at the Pretoria Boeremark in this regard.

In recent times, the farmers have had to negotiate dramatically higher costs with their production process in many respects. Food prices have risen sharply for the consumer and products in the value chain that depend on the cold chain’s shelf life are sometimes no longer the same as we were used to. After the products leave the farm, their handling is beyond the farmers’ control. Load capacity also has a major influence on shelf life, which ultimately results in a weaker product for the consumer.

Farmers are price takers on the input as well as the output side, which sometimes puts them in a position where they have to sell products at a loss, especially with vegetables, but also other products. This is where it can be of great value if communities start their own farmer’s market in order to make the path between farmer and consumer as short as possible. Of course, school fees will have to be paid to establish a unique market according to local needs.

The sooner someone in a community takes the initiative and does proper homework to see how the farmer and consumer can move much closer to each other in terms of the supply of food, the faster the consumer can put themselves in a position of affordable, high quality food find.

Today we pay tribute to all the consumers in our country and even overseas, with the fact that quite a few products are exported. Perhaps it is time that, as our farmers discuss matters on our forums about how we can sustainably remain in production, perhaps there should be a discussion forum between the consumers and the farmers in order to make sure that sufficient, affordable food of quality on the tables of the consumers will land.