A national Food Control Agency is to be established in the wake of concerns over the consistent increases in food prices, President Thabo Mbeki has announced.
Addressing the media following the July Cabinet Lekgotla, Mr Mbeki said a draft framework for the national Food Control Agency has been completed and is now ready to go out for consultation.
"This arises out of this concern about the high and rising food prices and their impact on the poorest in the country.
"We thought it was necessary to have some institutionalised way to respond to these on a continuous basis, rather than on an ad hoc basis," President Mbeki said.
The Lekgotla took place in Pretoria from July 22 to July 24 and during which a mid-year review was conducted on government's implementation of the Programme of Action.
Government had earlier set up a committee to examine the situation of high and rising food prices and to consider what sort of interventions government could make to restructure the situation for the country's poorest citizens, the President said.
One of the suggestions made by the committee was for the major food companies to simplify their packaging, thus saving costs and enabling it to sell mielie meal - a key element of the national staple diet - at a significantly reduced cost.
However, food prices have continued to rise consistently, leading government toward a more systematic response towards addressing the question of high food prices.
"Given the current impact of high food prices, and it's globally, its clear that you are now faced with a systemic challenge with regard to this; some structural challenge which is effecting the whole world," said the President.
As a result, a more "permanent ... less ad hoc" approach is now required to address the issue of high food prices, which seems to be becoming a long-term feature of both the domestic and the global economy.
The Food Control Agency would thus create a capacity to look at the entirety of the food system, and which would particularly look at the impact of this on the poor, and ways of lessening the impact of high food prices on them.
Mr Mbkei said other responses to high food prices would include the need to look again at the question of increasing agricultural production in the country, as well as addressing the challenge of South Africa being now a net importer of food.
This would also include the implementation of the agricultural strategy that government had agreed to with organised agriculture in South Africa.
The agency to be established would need to study all these issues continuously so as to be able to recommend to government what it is that can be done which is focused, which is specific, which is likely to produce the results that we need".
Food and the economy as a whole was one of the topics under discussion at this week's lekgotla which saw ministers, deputy ministers, premiers, director generals and representatives of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) meeting. - BuaNews