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Food, agri and mental health

It’s been exciting to see the food narrative growing louder and more robust in the lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit that took place on 23 September in New York, and of course, during World Food Month.

In its efforts to explore the extent of the brokenness of global food systems and how they can be fixed, the UN has done a commendable job of raising awareness around “good food” – how it’s produced, its taste and what it looks like. This has served to call out the perpetrators and laud the unsung heroes (e.g. farmers and indigenous peoples) in the various value chains.

Aptly, this edition features an article on food systems, compliance and food security. And in continuing our series, we shine the spotlight on problematic and unnecessary plastics.

Our fruit industry plays a critical role in establishing and maintaining resilient food systems – locally, as well as in its export markets (with packaging remaining a critical consideration in driving sustainability, and meeting retailer and consumer demands).

Hearteningly, the industry – as well as the agricultural sector at large – has continued to show extraordinary strength despite trying circumstances. Though, the Agbiz/IDC Agribusiness Confi dence Index (ACI) reflects a decline to 67 in Q3 from a record high 75 in Q2. But all is not lost: “A level above the neutral 50-point mark implies that agribusinesses are optimistic about operating conditions in the country,” reassures Agbiz.

With UN-projected global population growth to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, the role of the agricultural sector – and by extension, that of the fruit industry – is only going to grow bigger in its significance. For the fruit industry, this means retaining current markets and penetrating new ones, to match its growing production volumes. But it will require government keeping in step with the industry by prioritising favourable trade negotiations in the export markets.

Speaking of industry-government alignment, in the foreword Anton Kruger addresses the importance of strategically sound legislation. If we get this right, the industry can maximise the growing appetite for SA’s world-class fruit, ahead of its competitors.

Also in this edition, we look at the ways in which young famers are nurtured in the North West Province, market trends in the organic food context, top-working of citrus, and the SATI research overview.

On a different but rather important note, there has been growing concern around mental health, induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent World Economic Forum article titled, “The pandemic has made mental well-being a public health must”, they acknowledge “many initiatives doubling down on mental-health awareness now: the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the UK’s Royal Family and the Global Self-Care Federation”. The article also underscores the importance of recognising mental health risks and tuning in to identifying symptoms. I would encourage management and in fact, everyone in the industry to apply cognisance and understanding in this critical area, at this critical time.

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