The majority of food products sold to the consumer in a Supermarket on St Helena Island normally costs more than double and in some cases almost triple the actual price that can be seen in your normal high street supermarket outlet in South Africa or the UK.
St Helena depends on the majority of its food products to be imported from South Africa or transshipped from the UK which is then delivered to St Helena on the RMS St Helena. As a result, this makes the cost of living rather high and the reason behind such a high price tag is due to the freight cost which is among the highest in the world and already is expected to be increased within the new shipping service to be provided by Andrew Weir Shipping. However the cost of living is set to increase if the new proposed Food Safety Ordinance 2016 gets approved in its entirety by Legislative Council. It has been highlighted that certain components of the Ordinance will impact everyone who lives in or is hoping to visit St Helena. One of the main parts of the Ordinance which will have an adverse effect is the Governments plan to ban the importation of fresh or frozen meat products from South Africa. St Helena imports frozen meats such as Chicken, Pork, Sausages, Beef, Lamb, Fish and Bacon from South Africa as the Island cannot produce or meet demand locally. The new drafted Food Safety Ordinance dictates that importers of meat products will only be allowed to import meat from approved EU suppliers. Merchants on the Island do not import frozen products on a large-scale on the transhipment service from the UK, as the cost and risk of doing so has massive financial impacts if the frozen products don’t reach the Island in the correct storage conditions and merchants would be directly responsible for the shipment regardless of the condition on arrival. It is also not cost-effective to tranship frozen goods as there is a massive price difference on UK frozen products at source compared to SA products.
Speaking directly to some importers on the Island the forecast that if they are forced to import meat product from the EU authorized suppliers and not from South Africa under the new regulations then this would lead firstly to an increase to almost four times the price at source, and most certainly a reduction in the choice of products imported. Such a move by the Government will greatly increase the risk of food security because it will take 10 weeks to resupply goods from the UK if unexpected shortages occur. Re-sellers and small business owners like service providers in the catering industry fear that this will impact their business massively as they will have to increase their prices for visitors and locals alike. They also believe that this will not encourage clients to use their service as regular as they do now and will result in less income. One business owner stated he is frustrated with the new legislation whilst it is understood that a number of pieces of legislation are being revamped or introduced to support a potential new tourist industry, in this particular instance, they can see no logic in the banned importation of meat products from South Africa. South Africa is one of the tourist capitals of the world and as a business owner put it “I am certain tourists don’t take their own meat products with them” This is particularly reasoning when in this large tourism continent, there are never many or no cases identifying food quality problems as long as there are systems in place monitoring the distribution, catering and hospitality industries. Another local St Helenian commented that “The idea of banning meats from South Africa makes no sense to me what if Britain decides to leave the EU in a few months after the referendum then this will make us look silly”