The World Cup of Food prices

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Over the last few weeks I have been pondering the impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on us normal South Africans. Looking at the influx of people, we will have well over 600 000 people visiting us in a 6-8 week period. I had been seeing reports of price escalations in the order of 200-500%. And that’s just not for accommodation and flights, it’s for everything! Every single person will be looking at making their slice of the FIFA pie. A close colleague of mine that works for the hospitality industry said that even burgers in your local steak house will be going for over R 100.00. Being a South African will not preclude you from the higher prices. This set me on the path of planning and preparing for a possible food shortage or trying to get away from paying high prices for food during our 2010 World Cup. In my research I found that I could now be termed a survivalist… pretty strong words for one that just does not want to pay stupid prices for food during and after the 2010 World Cup. In addition, I have picked up a few additional posts and articles on the “net”, from a looming global food shortage, to total collapse precipitated by a global famine. Just take the time to google “global food shortage 2010” and see what comes up.

Survivalism has taken America by storm, with all of the rumblings about the Global Financial Crisis and the collapse of world currencies, or the threat of Swine Flu. Survivalists and others that see trouble coming are stocking up on all manner of goods, from food and medicine, to guns and ammunition. The survivalist movement is not quite the topic of this post, however there are elements that I have found to be complimentary. One of the sites that I have used for my current research is which by all intents and purposes is a pretty levelheaded site when it comes to “preppers and prepping” as survivalists now like to call “the movement”. Mainly as people are “prepping to survive” various forms and iterations of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) I can’t fault the logic in most of what they are doing, I like to think of it as “eating insurance”, and this is what brings me to the point of my post.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is almost here. The draw has taken place and the teams know where they are going to play. Everyone in South Africa is scheming of ways to cash in on the World Cup from designing cheap plastic throw-away noise makers to renting out their houses in the hopes that they will make a quick buck. Well, all power to them. That’s the spirit guys, it’s time to take some initiative and make some money.

I’m not a 2010 naysayer, and I’m glad things look like they are pulling together. My concern is for the ordinary people that need to live through the 6-8 weeks of FIFA festivities and the 6 months after that. By all indications South Africa has done an excellent job of preparing to host these 600 000+ revelers that will be flocking to use our hotels, restaurants, bars, taxi’s, busses, guest houses and and and…..

I also know from first hand information that the hospitality industry will be looking at tripling ALL prices for the 6 week duration of the 2010 World Cup. Airfares will be through the roof, hotels and guest houses will be charging a minimum of R 1200.00 per room per night, and some a lot more. Everyone will be trying to get their own fistful of Euro’s or Dollars and the ordinary South African will be caught up in the price escalation.

However and this is a BIG HOWEVER! I have not seen or heard of any preparations for feeding these hungry hoards. I do know of vegetable farms that have retrenched hundreds of staff, I do know of farmers that have just shut down operations as stock theft has not made it worthwhile, and I do know of heirs to farms that will not return as the murder of their parents is far too painful to bear. I also know that South Africa is no longer a net producer of food. We have to import our shortfall now. All of this, even though it’s insignificant in most people’s eyes, it is the makings of a “perfect storm” in the food retail industry. I have yet to hear of a single farmer that has started to plan food production for the 2010 World Cup.

“Why? One just needs to walk into the local supermarket and they will always have food!” Yes they do, but they have tweaked their supply chain to the maximum and very often they (the store) runs out of an item in the front just as the goods are being delivered in the back. That is a perfectly balanced supply chain. They know exactly how much to order every day so that they never run out. They also don’t need to carry a large inventory, as this just ties up cash, storage uses valuable retail space and it increases chances of theft and damage. So the cheapest thing is to have a well oiled supply chain and get it delivered “Just In Time”. This last week has just added weight to my argument as many stores are short of everyday food items, we have been to 3 stores in our local town and there are empty shelves everywhere, and these are guys that plan for the Christmas season every year.

If nobody has prepared or planted to feed the additional half of a million plus mouths, where will that food come from? Are you prepared to pay 3 times the price for your bag of potatoes, rice or can of beans? I firmly believe that there will be a massive increase in shelf prices for many items during and for well after the 2010 World Cup, mainly due to economics. It’s Supply and Demand. Simply put, prices will go up due to a scarcity of available stock. There is nothing that you can do to change that.

You could run and Toi-Toi for lower shelf prices, but the “We Demands” can demand as much as they want, but when there is nothing on the shelves… there is nothing on the shelves. You can’t “We Demand” food to appear from nowhere if the planning and planting has not been done.

And that my friends is what may happen.

Personally we have done a few things to ensure that we can escape the price surge in the 6 weeks during and 6 months post 2010 World Cup. Why 6 months post the World Cup? You may ask. Well it just makes sense.

We will be in the middle of winter and the first time someone will be able to get a seed in the ground is Sept/Oct, add on 3 months for the first fruit to be available on the markets, and another month for prices to start coming down. So it will be January 2011 before our agricultural sector catches-up with the food supply for ordinary South Africans like you and me.

So what are you to do?

A few simple things I believe. It just makes sense and if you prepare correctly you will have cheap food while the rest of South Africa is bleating about the high cost of getting their “daily bread” during a FIFA World Cup.

1)      Plant a Garden and harvest and store as much as possible. Idea’s are: Frozen Carrots, Processed Tomatoes (bottled or frozen), Store some Pumpkins, Onions and potatoes keep well. Plant some dry beans for adding to soups/stews. Make bottled green beans, beetroot, peppers, and some sauces. Just use your noggin, you know what you enjoy. And maybe you’ll have some fun and learn a new skill at the same time.

2)      Buy in Bulk, go to a caterers supply, Makro or eastern / oriental market and haggle for a good bulk price on rice, mielie pap and dry food stuffs. Think of what you don’t mind eating. Learn to pack the food for med-long term storage. (3-6 Months)

3)      But case-lots of canned foods, these store well and make great gifts for friends when they see the prices in shops this coming winter.

4)      Try find a farmer / smallholder that is willing to sell you a whole or share of a pig / sheep / tollie (bull calf) or if you have your own ground, raise your own.

5)      If you live in town, get some hens and get a little laying program going. Hens do not make the noise that Roosters do and provide fantastic bug control and compost additives.

Guys, I’m not professing to be a prophet or doomsayer, however just think of the logistics required to feed well over 600 000 people for 6 weeks+. I guarantee that these guys are coming out for fun…. lots of it. They will not be on a diet, they are going to eat and drink and be merry in excess, all the while paying in Euro’s, US$ and Pounds. Germany ran out of some foodstuffs in the last World Cup and had to import food at exorbitant prices as there was none locally available. We I fear, may be in the same situation.

Those that take pro-active steps now, will be smiling during and after the 2010 World Cup as you will have beaten the system. Well, come to think of it…..that’s not fair… Beating a system that is inherently broken, is like trying to argue with Julias Malema, and the last thing we need to become is a bunch of “We Demands” because we can’t look after our own. God gave you brains and ability, as well as the reasoning power to look at the future and understand that now is a good time to prepare for a possible food shortage or food price escalation.

The worst that could happen is that my prediction would prove false. But then you will have learnt that you would save money by buying in bulk and storing food. You might have learnt to plant a veggie garden, and received the culinary benefit of your own organically grown veggies. If you preserved some of your produce, you may have learnt a new skill, and finally, you would not have lost money to the banks in interest and bank charges. Your “money” would only appreciate in value, as food prices don’t come down… they only go up.  It not like storing something that you will never use.

11 thoughts on “The World Cup of Food prices

  1. Max says:

    Ha, they just announced that over 700 000 WC tickets are being retutrned to South Africa, so I suppose you now have a good back door excuse if prices don’t do up.

  2. nushEnuth says:

    The response level to national disaster is noble but it’s a real shame that so many people take advantage of the sad situations.

    I mean everytime there is an earthquake, a flood, an oil spill – there’s always a group of heartless people who rip off tax payers.

    This is in response to reading that 4 of Oprah Winfreys “angels” got busted ripping off the system. Shame on them!

  3. Artwell Chivhinge says:

    Dear Sean

    I would like to commend you for that foresight. I agree with you and you are absolutely right about what is going to happen. My biggest concern is not about the 2010 Wold Cup alone but the household food insecurity in the urban, peri-urban and most of the rural areas.

    It pains me a lot to see how people struggle to buy the basic food stuffs and the dependence on the shops for everything that we eat. A lot of people have backyards, fields and open spaces where they can grow fresh food and supplement their income whilst at the same time improving their health and nutritional requirements. i will be gratified to see people being able to feed themselves. I come from a country where we grow our own maize, groundnuts, sunflowers, beans, cowpeas, peas, irish and sweet potatoes, cassava, sugarcane, millet, rapoko, sorghum, pumpkins, and different types of vegetables in the both rural and urban areas. In most cases what we buy from the shops is salt, soap and at times sugar if we did not stock enough honey from the beehives.

    The World Cup will be a wake up call but in long run we need to make a big stride in ensuring food security in South Africa. Few people can afford 3 nutritious meals a day and i wonder what the future holds for us. Let us change our situation!

  4. Mac says:

    Hi Sean,

    You are wrong – there is no other way to describe it. Your analytical skills are questionable – where, pray tell, did you get the figure of 200-500% for everything? That is ridiculous.

    You write well but i’m glad you’re not an economist. Costs may increase by a factor of 1.1 – 1.3%. That means you pay an extra 10c – 12c for a loaf of bread, hardly crippling!

    Great – plant a garden but don’t be scared into it by conspiracy claptrap. South Africa feeds hundred of thousands of refugees daily, we’ve hosted events before (rugby and cricket and never once run into any kind of shortage). In fact the biggest problem i can see is possibly running out of crisps at your local supermarket.

    • Sean Freeman says:

      Hi Mac
      I sincerely hope that I am wrong. The scenario that I wrote about is not something that I would like ever to be true…. even to say “I told you so….”

      The whole idea behind the post was to get people thinking, some discussion is always good, however from where I stand it looks like trouble brewing. Yes we have hosted large events before, but never at this scale.

      My figures are hearsay, however it’s not third hand hearsay, it’s literal first hand hearsay from within the hospitality industry. Thankfully I’m not an economist look where the worlds finances are because of them 😉

      Please feel free to come back in August and tell me I was wrong.. I sincerely hope you are right.


  5. Fiona says:

    Hi Sean
    Great article, I agree with everything you said. My problem is that I live in a townhouse complex with a communal garden, any vegetables or fruit that I have tried to grow gets distroyed by the complex children, they think that lemons, oranges etc are tennis or cricket balls.

    Do you have any suggestions what and where I can grow food?



    • Sean Freeman says:

      Fiona, I can appreciate your problem. You issue is actually multi-faceted. First, if you are only looking at the World-Cup issue then look at stocking up on canned and ‘instant’ foods (not the best option I know, but it might save you money in the long-run) as well as looking at getting a chest freezer and filling it with meat and veggies that you bought an processed from your local fresh produce market. It’s better than complaining about the food prices, if/when it happens.
      If you are determined at growing your own, you won’t go wrong with looking into square-foot, container and doorway gardening, you may not be able to provide all that you require but it sure will help to reduce your reliance on the stores. These 3 methods are not my speciality so it’s best to do a seach on the net for inspiration.
      Another solution is to try and get the “complex children” (and they can be very complex…) to assist you, look at getting each child to plant their “own” garden, help them with seed/seedlings etc. They will soon learn that gardening is fun and have respect for others gardens. Hey, they might even start eating their own veggies. (personally I’d charge their parents if they do 😉 )

  6. Hi Sean

    I have been thinking about this alot but could never articulate it the way you do.

    I have also had a pressing feeling that we need to stockpile from now on. Thanks for urging me on to action.

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