Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Keeping food and agricultural systems alive - Analyses and solutions in a period of crises - COVID-19 Pandemic

The current global outbreak of COVID-19 has disrupted agricultural and food systems around the world. Timely and credible information is imperative in avoiding panic-driven reaction that can aggravate these disruptions, deteriorating food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable.

In order to provide such information to its Members, FAO analyzed past experiences and provides a compilation of policy responses with their pros and cons for agricultural and food systems. This list will be continually updated and expanded.

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Area
Subarea
Potential Disruptions
Development and transformation
Supply chains rebalancing

Supply interruptions due to restricted trade flows in food systems with high dependency on imports (for equipment such as for cooling meats, for inputs such as feed, or for food products themselves - import or export dependencies).

Development and transformation
Supply chains rebalancing

SMEs risking banruptcy due to cash flow challenges (rapid drop in revenues undermines keeping work-force and operations intact).

Development and transformation
Supply chains and movement restrictions of consumers

Sudden and total loss of market for small retail/horeca operators and those heavily dependent in supplying them, due to severe movement restrictions of consumers - lack of e-commerce linkages (market diversification)

Development and transformation
Supply chains and movement restrictions of labour

Food processing is interrupted or in dissaray due to labor movement restrictions, increased risk for spreading diseases at the facilities or via products leaving from them

 

Development and transformation
Supply chains and movement restrictions of labour

Lack of or insufficient number of workers for cultivation and agricultural production - may negatively affect timing of planting and subsequent harvests, similarly for food processing

Incentives and expenditure
Measures to incentivize agricultural production

decreased planting area

Incentives and expenditure
Measures to incentivize agricultural production

The experiences in China following the SARS outbreak has shown that farmers can face severe disruption of production due to a lack of labor for in harvesting, and higher transportation costs making operations unprofitable. Many farmers in China expressed that they would lose less money if they chose to let the crops rotten in the fields. In West Africa during Ebola, FAO reports indicate that farmers difficulties selling their production or sold at a loss. Input prices increased due to transportation restrictions. For staple crops, countries registered an average reduction of production volume by 12 percent. Farmers' decisions on the land areas to be sown will depend on their economic capacity, their confidence in being able to mobilize collective labour when required and guarantees that they will be able to market their produce at favourable prices. In addition, exchange rate fluctuations are expected to accur that could affect the competitiveness of export value chains.

Incentives and expenditure
Mitigating impact of agricultural budget cuts & disruptions.

contraction of agricultural production

Incentives and expenditure
Mitigating impact of agricultural budget cuts & disruptions.

Some countries (e.g. Indonesia) have already announced that non-essential spending should be at least partially reallocated. In Indonesia, for example social security spending and the health sector expenditures were given priority. In the US, the "family first emergency package" includes food aid. It is inevitable that certain countries will reallocate their budgets as a result of the pandemic and it is possible that this could lead to a decrease in agricultural investments/expenditures. Decentralized spending to agriculture may see significant cuts in areas most affected by COVID-19.

Due to the outbreak, key public agricultural facilities (such as agricultural research agencies & institutes), may have to be partially or permanently closed. The monetary implications could be large and it could delay the diffusion of vital agricultural technology.

Nutrition priorities
School meal programmes/homegrown school meal programmes

1) Closure of schools means the disruption or shutdown of school meal programmes which are often the only source of regular meals available for vulnerable and at risk children. It will also affect children with a very limited home diet or that due to the emergency will be more vulnerable to the lack of nutritious food  

2) In cases where schools are still open or they remain open only to serve meals, there are risks that these can become focuses of infection, when they are not able to ensure compliance with social distancing and hygiene protocols.  

3) Fear of infection from families may lead children to not attend school nor to collect/consume meals provided by schools. This could lead to increased waste. In contrast, food baskets may not reach schoolchildren in the household

4) There may be logistical and financial issues of contracts with suppliers and school meal caterers that have already been agreed upon. The contracts may be cancelled or food already supplied may be spoiled when school closures occur without notice  

5) Some schools may not be able to rapidly respond or transform their meal services due to: inadequate funds to cover the additional costs (e.g. of delivery), shortage of staff that are able to work under the heath regulations, no means of transport adequate for food delivery, no equipment to ensure the safety of children, families and staff, and/or shortage of supply or non compliance of contracts

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