In his opening statement at the Global Consumer Goods Forum’s summit in London last week, Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman voiced concerns about land reform ahead of the expected release of a South African government policy document on the topic.
South African farmers fear the nationalization of land, which Ackerman said would harm farmers’ ability to expand. He said both ambiguity and uncertainty threaten food security and lack of
clarity about land tenure would make it difficult for farmers to raise
“In South Africa, an on-going debate about the nationalization of land is a case in point and indicative perhaps of a possible trend in many emerging economies,” he said.
Ackerman stated that in most developing countries, agriculture is the
largest source of employment and that international agriculture
agreements are crucial to a country’s food security. “There is thus a stimulating debate afoot among World Trade
Organization member states about the liberalization of markets and the
implications for the food security of whole communities.”
He called for governments to be proactive and set standards
and rules for businesses to operate. He advocated that this would
drive innovation, create competitive advantage, and generate
Ackerman said another threat to food security is global corporate
consolidation in food retailing, distribution, and production. In
America the top five food retailers control more than half of the
country’s total grocery sales, he said.
“We have no choice but to place retailing in the larger social and environmental context which will define how well we are doing our work,” he said.
“To address this imbalance, we need to take a more proactive role in the nurturing of small business initiatives, with the express purpose of ensuring the development and sustainability of small-scale agricultural and other enterprises.”
As people look toward a fresh economic start and adapt to a new era of restraint, Ackerman said he believes consumer confidence can be restored in 2010/2011.
“In that climate, there will be a renewed insistence on value for money, a more vigorous demand for transparency on the part of our companies, and a muscular emphasis on the primacy of environmental and ethical issues.”