The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), an independent research agency, has developed a Web-based monitoring tool to allow key participants in the food value chain to report breakdowns and blockages within the chain. This will permit fast and applicable actions to deal with these problems. This tool is called the End-to-End Food Chain Tracker.
“In order to ensure that food remains available to South African consumers, continuous tracking of operations within the value chain will be necessary,” explained the BFAP in its latest brief report, 'Impact of Covid-19: Clarifying and managing essential goods and services across agricultural value chains is critical for food security'. “A disruption of activities at any single point in the value chain will have knock-on implications.”
Consequently the Food Chain Tracker, in the words of the BFAP, “forms part of the initiatives that Government is driving in collaboration with the Agricultural Task Team. The platform will summarise the results and generate reports that will be shared with the National Joint Command Centre, which is responsible for managing the overall [implementation of] Covid-19 Regulation 398 of the National Disaster Management Act dealing with essential services and goods.”
But ensuring a secure food supply chain for the South African people does not merely rely on the agricultural and agri-processing value chains. These can only function, the BFAP highlights, if essential enabling services also function. The bureau identifies these as banking, electricity, logistics, pest control, phytosanitary services, security, telecommunications, waste disposal and water.
These are “cross-cutting” services which are required by the different parts of the food supply chain. Consequently, they all fit the definition of essential services. “From a food supply chain perspective, essential goods and services entail all activities and processes which support the production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste disposal of food in the system,” affirmed the BFAP report.
The bureau assured that a wide range of South African food and essential support supply chains are still operational. On the narrowly food side of operations, these are agricultural and food-related activities and all the agricultural support services and input providers; fishing operations; agri-processing operations for food, beverages and “essential products”; and food and essential product outlets, whether wholesale or retail, large or small, formal or informal. On the essential support activities side, these are transport, logistics and warehousing for food, health-related products and essential products; and road and rail networks and ports, allowing both the import and export of essential products (but the associated procedures and systems for regulatory control and inspection have to operate with efficiency and effect).