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Covid-19 has hit SMEs in South Africa’s food sector hard. What can be done to help them?

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The Conversation, August 5, 2020, photo credit: Shutterstock/Entrepreneur India

COVID-19 has prompted widespread discussion of the resilience of food systems and how efficiency and competitiveness have been previously understood. Recent decades have seen the growth of increasingly complex food value chains. These are underpinned by just-in-time delivery systems, a growing share of food products sold through supermarkets, and increasing concentration of ownership among powerful, large food manufacturers.

The pandemic has further emphasised the need for a more diverse and inclusive food system, in which small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) play a key role.

As part of a larger project investigating challenges faced by agro-processing SMEs, we conducted qualitative telephone interviews with 16 SME maize milling and dairy firms during lockdown to gauge the effects of the pandemic.
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