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The future of the food system: cases involving the private sector in South Africa

The food system is facing unprecedented pressure from environmental change exacerbated by the expansion of global agri-food corporations. With a large proportion of sub-Saharan African countries’ gross domestic product still heavily reliant on agriculture, global trends in agri-food business are having an increasing impact on African countries. This paper uses interview data with corporate executives from South African food businesses to explore how they are adapting to the dual pressures of environmental change and globalisation. It shows that companies now have to adapt to macro-trends both within and outside the formal food sector and how this in turn has repercussions for building sustainable farming systems − both small and large-scale. The paper concludes that businesses have strategically recognised the need to align the economic bottom line with social and environmental factors, but real sustainability will only happen when all stakeholders are included in food governance.