Food Trade and Investment in South Africa: Improving Coherence Between Economic Policy, Nutrition and Food Security

South Africa must address a rising burden of diet-related chronic disease while also continuing to combat persistent food insecurity and undernutrition. The prevalence of stunting among children in South Africa remains around 25%. At the same time, the prevalence of obesity has risen to 39% among women and 11% among men, and diabetes in the adult population to 10%. Addressing this double burden of malnutrition will require a comprehensive policy approach that supports demand for healthy food (including financial access) and its supply. In this paper, we focus on supply side interventions – and particularly, the need for policy across sectors to support availability of affordable, healthy food. However, growing trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), supported by binding international commitments, present governments with a challenge as they seek to intervene in the food supply to improve diets and health. Government action to regulate the food supply to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods and increase access to healthy foods becomes subject 1) to the influence of powerful investors and other industry actors, and 2) to commitments made in international trade and investment agreements. This paper analyses the policy agendas that shape the food environment in South Africa, and aims to identify potential to improve policy coherence for nutrition, across economic sectors in South Africa. From a food supply perspective, food security and nutrition policy is effectively governed by economic policy actors – this includes agriculture, trade, finance, investment and commerce/industry.