Hastings on Food

2016-04-07 06:00

SALUTATIONS desiccated Earth warriors. May the cosmos bring abundant nourishment to our parched Earth.

Regrettably after two years of consecutive drought with limited crop production and severe food insecurities, towards the end of this year even higher staple food prices are to be expected.

Recently, I paid R70 for a small bag of mediocre quality potatoes. The range in the textures and moisture content of each potato was so irregular I had a challenge cooking them.

Already since February crop failures have been confirmed in eastern Botswana, southern Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

While crop conditions have been classified as poor in surplus producing areas of South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe as well as less surplus areas of southern Malawi, northern Namibia, southern Zambia and western Madagascar.

It is estimated that this will affect a further four million individuals across Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique Zambia, Lesotho and Madagascar, who will now face food insecurities.

The below-average rainy seasons that have significantly impacted crop and livestock production, feed and cereal prices, water availability have also made every day livelihoods more vulnerable.

We should not take any short-term improvements into the situation as indication of a solution, as it could be the onset of a severe famine period that will be characterised by the massive increases in food prices, which are likely to peak in November and December. This will also onset a combination of reduced income, limited stock holdings, serious water shortages which could result in the number of individuals affected by food insecurities to double by February and March 2017.

Yes, hard times are certainly ahead of us and it appears we often take too much for granted. When we shop and go up and down the aisles, how many of us really acknowledge the more popular staples and the essence behind them.

Take milk for instance, being classified as a dairy product which in turn is responsible for approximately 10% of the world’s nutritional requirements and 20% of its protein requirements.

Although South Africa has a low yield in terms of global production it is still considerably higher than most African countries and the importance of becoming more self-sufficient may give way to question our production of wool, tobacco, wine and other commodities on valuable agricultural land.

Surprisingly more than 80% of South Africa is dry to semi-arid with unreliable rain fall making most of the country unsuited for intensive agricultural production systems like dairy farming.

The most dominant variable in livestock farming is the consistent supply of water and feed for the animals, which relies on the environmental aspects of temperatures, soil types, sun hours and rainfall. Because milk is perishable, distances from production to markets to retailers also needs to be accounted for.

Milk production or farming has many spin offs, as it is a major client where agricultural mechanisms such as tractors, irrigation and other necessary equipment, and animal feeds, additionally 40% of all milk produced is converted into yoghurt, cheeses and curdled milk which in turn creates more job opportunities and increases the total volume of income generated. The tourist trade also plays a major part in the whole process as visitors to our beautiful country consider food a fundamental aspect of their holiday.

There is a continuous drive to include previously disadvantaged individuals into all enterprises, including dairy farming although this is a seemingly commendable sentiment. There is however many challenges when it comes to dairy farming. Firstly, gone are the days of starting a project with five or 10 cows in one’s backyard and making it economical viable. In today’s world there are huge financial requirements and emerging farmers must have access to readily available financial support coupled with consistent supportive training with startups having at least 85 cows plus to make it worthwhile and profitable.

So now the milk is in our trolley and some appreciation is acknowledged for the countless individuals who started a process months back to give us the ease to take one, half, two litre or six pack in accordance with our requirements.

Next to the milk is Flora margarine endorsed by the South African Heart Foundation. It is a brand implemented and marketed by Unilever who after being asked by medical professionals to come up with a healthier alternative to other margarines, lards and hard butters. Flora was originally named after one of Unilever’s marketing directors Louis Flora Catlow who died on 24 June, 2009.

It is a blend of healthy fats including omega three and six, vitamin B6 and B12 together with folic acid it contains plant sterols which reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream by 40%. It contains very little trans fats and no hydrogenated oils both of which have major health implications.

While butter is a natural fat that has been consumed for thousands of years, margarine is purely man-made and when produced is actually grey in colour before it is dyed yellow.

Flora also contains palm oil which in turn has been blamed for the loss of hardwood forests that are being cleared for palm oil plantations.

While sustainable sources of palm oil are limited and make up a very small percentage of production, flora is committed to using certifiable sustainable resources and is genuinely concerned of any environmental consequences that may arise from production.

Next week we will deal with the roaring Simba.

It is well known that the truly famous South African milk tart available on most street corners is of course granny’s milk tart


•3 tablespoons of butter

•1 cup white sugar

•3 large egg yolks

•1 cup cake flour

•1 teaspoon baking powder

•pinch salt

•1 teaspoon vanilla extract

•4 cups of milk

•3 large egg whites

•1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar

•bake and cook


•Preheat the oven to 190°C

•Coat a round cake tin with bake and cook

•In a bowl mix the butter and sugar till smooth

•Add the egg yolks and bake till fluffy

•Sift in the cake flour, baking powder and salt

•Stir together till well mixed

•Add the vanilla essence and milk

•Stir together

•In another bowl whip the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed

•Fold this into the batter

•Pour into the greased cake tin sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top

•Bake for 20 to 25 minutes

•Reduce the temperature to 165°C.

•Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until the centre is set.


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