Marketing Agricultural Products
‘Food security’ is a term which, to a certain extent, has some buzz-word connotation – along the lines, say, of ‘global warming’. But it represents a huge problem, as an umbrella term for: the availability of food that is safe and nutritious; availability in a socially acceptable way (ie, not scavenging or stealing, for example); and in adequate quantities. Food insecurity, on the other hand, implies the opposite of these factors. According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization, between 1999 and 2008, South Africa reduced its food insecurity by more than half. Well done, of course, but that still meant that 26% of our population suffered from food insecurity – and that is not good enough.1
To complicate matters, in a way, the powers that be need to ensure that the food which reaches our tables is safe to eat, but whereas a rich man might gag at the thought of eating rotten meat, a starving beggar would not. In terms of the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act 1996, the Minister of Agriculture can issue a wide variety of declarations in respect of any products, including restrictions on their importation or export, the introduction of levies, and the like. These can be broadly referred to as ‘statutory measures’, and of course are designed to be all in the public good. One can think of the fairly recent issue concerning imported poultry products, for example.
One thing the Minister cannot do, however, is establish a statutory measure, or implement any prohibition, which ‘is likely to be substantially detrimental to food security, the number of employment opportunities within the economy, or to fair labour practice…’2 It does not take much to see the potential for conflicting interests.
A. General offences
The Act makes it an offence to contravene or fail to comply with any of its provisions. The only one which seems to be applicable is a prohibition against disclosure of any information acquired (by inspectors etc) during the performance of functions in terms of the Act.3
It is also an offence to contravene or fail to comply with any statutory measure established under the Act.4