South Africa's agricultural policy has had food self-sufficiency as a major objective until recently. This is still the case for a number of the homelands. South Africa has to a large extent achieved this goal by producing a surplus in most of the agricultural commodities. Despite this efficiency, large inequities, inefficient food distribution networks and high levels of malnutrition are experienced. South Africa is therefore characterised by surpluses and exports amidst food shortages - a situation of "hunger and malnutrition next to the granary" is therefore typical. These conditions necessitate a review of the current agricultural policy goals. This paper strongly argues in favour of a policy of food security aimed at both national and household level. The paper initially reviews the issues and terminology of food security as a matter of clarification. The dimensions of the food security problem in South Africa at national and household level are subsequently quantified showing that 21% of the urban population and 63% of the rural population in South Africa live below the minimum subsistence level. The evidence necessitates an evaluation of policies and programmes to address food security in South Africa. The paper looks at a range of policy alternatives and concludes that, on the one hand, production orientated policies implying technological change and commercialization of production by rural households will provide a long term impact in terms of all the food security risks. Given South Africa's inequitable distribution of infrastructure, this will have to be accompanied by infrastructural development and an improved food distribution network. On the other hand, the increasing number of urban households necessitates a reconsideration of pricing and distributional issues. Specific issues which will have to be addressed are controlled marketing, marketing margins and the influence of concentration in the food processing sectors on the price and affordability of basic foodstuffs. Attention should also be paid to the "food price dilemma" which should be taken into consideration in agricultural price policy. Finally it is important to note that food security requires economic development and large scale public commitment which is not achievable with a few cheap short term interventions.

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Journal Article
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Agrekon, Volume 31, Issue 4
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 Record created 2018-01-31, last modified 2018-02-01

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