Hotspots of vulnerability and disruption in food value chains during COVID-19 in South Africa: industry- and firm-level “pivoting” in response
December 24, 2021 - Author: Ferdinand Meyera, Thomas Reardon, Tracy Davids, Melissa van der Merwe, Daniel Jordaan, Marion Delport & Gerhard Van Den Burgh
Meyer, F., Reardon, T., Davids, T., van der Merwe, M., Jordaan, D., Delport, M., & Van Den Burgh, G. (2021). Hotspots of vulnerability and disruption in food value chains during COVID-19 in South Africa: industry- and firm-level “pivoting” in response. Agrekon, 1–21.
We use a primary data set from a survey of medium and large firms and farms in the beef, citrus, and maize value chains in South Africa during March-June 2020, the early and late phases of the initial COVID-19 lockdowns. We have five main findings. (1) The initial lockdown regulations declared as “essential” the product (vertical) value chains but left as “inessential” the important “lateral” value chains delivering labour, materials, and logistics to the segments of the vertical value chains. This hurt the three vertical value chains as constraints in the laterals choked key segments of the verticals. (2) Vulnerability of the whole value chain emanated from vulnerability to shocks of critical “hotspot” linchpin segments (such as livestock auctions) or infrastructure (such as at ports). (3) Collective, industry-level “pivoting” was crucial both to organize the private sector response and to interact with government to course-correct on COVID-19 policies. (4) Responses to pre-COVID-19 challenges (such as drought and international phytosanitary rule changes) had prepared the beef and citrus value chain actors to respond collectively to the pandemic challenges. (5) Individual firm- and segment-level “pivoting” was also crucial for resilience, such as cattle auctions going on-line with the help of e-commerce firms.