The impact of Covid-19 on black farmers in South Africa

01 Feb 2022

Covid-19 is impacting on food systems and food security around the world, including in South Africa, revealed most starkly in rising food prices and increasing food insecurity. Debates on what kind of food system we need to respond to this crisis remain unresolved and lacking in a good understanding of the impacts of Covid-19 on farmers who are key actors in food systems. This article contributes to these debates by revealing the experiences of black fresh produce farmers in South Africa since Covid-19 arrived in the country and the government responded with a range of emergency regulations. This is based on in-depth research with 40 market-orientated black small- and medium-scale farmers. Giving particular attention to black farmers is essential in South Africa given the high levels of continued wealth and racial inequalities. The study has found that, despite overall growth in the agricultural sector, these farmers are facing many challenges and receive inadequate support. The outcomes of Covid-19 related impacts include reductions in production and incomes as well as job losses. If not addressed there could be long-term negative consequences that undermine the food system and reinforce existing inequalities. A holistic food system approach, better informed by an understanding of black farmers and the networks they are part of, will be valuable to finding solutions.