Agriculture Minister, Thoko Didiza, has sought to allay fears of food shortages amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying the country is well supplied with food.

This as queues begin to form at some of the large retail stores in Johannesburg – following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of the national lockdown starting Thursday midnight, to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in South Africa has risen to 554.

Addressing the media in Pretoria, Didiza has appealed for people to refrain from panic buying and stockpiling.

She says: “Agricultural business production will remain un-compromised. I appeal to the public, as I have indicated that we are self-sufficient at the moment and there is no need to embark on panic buying, the country has sufficient food supply.”

“Panic buying has caused disruption and inconvenienced the system. There is no need for panic buying in the manner that we address the challenges that we are facing.”

Minister Didiza appealing to the public: 

Food supply amid lockdown 

Meanwhile, the agricultural sector welcomed additional measures announced by the President.  Agri SA’s deputy executive director Christo van Rheede says the exemption of the agricultural sector from the lockdown will ensure that there’s adequate food supply amid the lockdown.

Trade and Industry Minister, Ebrahim Patel, says the Competition Commission is investigating 11 companies for allegedly hiking the prices of products – such as face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers.

Patel says those who take advantage of the public by raising the prices of items will be issued fines, penalties and even jail time.

Consumers in Pretoria have flocked to stores ahead of the 21-day lockdown scheduled to start Thursday at midnight. Our reporter Patricia Visagie caught up with some consumers at Makro in Silverlakes, East of Pretoria.

Below is the full media briefing: