"Informal" food traders and food security: experiences from the Covid-19 response in South Africa

Food Secur. 2020;12(4):797-800. doi: 10.1007/s12571-020-01078-z. Epub 2020 Jul 7.


This opinion piece looks at the substantial role of informal traders in ensuring food security, and other economic and social goods in South Africa and how they have been impacted by Covid-19 and responses to it. The state responses have reflected a continued undervaluing and undermining of this sector to the detriment of the traders themselves, their suppliers, and their customers. There is a need for a new valuing of the sector that would recognise and build on its mode of ordering and key contributions to society. This needs to include: shifting the narrative about the actors involved and challenging the concept of "informal"; planning and regulating to ensure more space for owner-operated small-scale food retailers; and putting in place a social-safety net to support them in times of crisis.

Keywords: Covid-19; Food markets; Food security; Food systems; Informal economy; Small-scale retailers.