فيروس كورونا المستجد (كوفيد-١٩)

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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Potential Disruptions
Nutrition priorities
Nutrition sensitive value chains

Enterprises in the diary sector might expect some potential disruption in the movement of their products through the value chain and in ensuring their production due to the current limitation and the reduced number of employees. This situation might generate as well cash tension in their financial operations which will have a negative impact in the future production of dairy products. 

Nutrition priorities
Nutrition sensitive value chains

Shock in the retail markets lead to a new trends in the supply and demand.

Nutrition priorities
Nutrition sensitive value chains

Perishable items may not make it to market or consumers because of transportation restrictions.

Nutrition priorities
Nutrition sensitive value chains

Lack of manpower due to restricted mobility resulting in high levels of post-harvest losses, and reduced planting.

Nutrition priorities
Nutrition sensitive value chains

Difficulty in bringing food to market owing to fewer items to buy, sell and trade; market closure due to illness and quarantine.

Nutrition priorities
Nutrition sensitive value chains

Consumer behavior - hoarding/stockpiling/'panic purchasing' - is leading to empty grocery shelves and lack of availability for vulnerable householfs.

Nutrition priorities
Nutrition sensitive value chains

Nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific community measures for addressing problems of malnutrition are halted because all resources focus on the health response to COVID.

Smallholder access to markets
Ensure smallholders' access to farmers' markets and public procurement

As part of the COVID 19 response, many vegetables or farmers' markets were temporarily closed, preventing smallholder farmers and their associations to sell their produce, leading to loss of income, loss of perishable produce and accumulation of non-perishable produce. At the same time, smallholder farmers that supply to school meal schemes were affected by the closure of schools, in March 2020. Kenya: the curfew hours (between sunset and sunrise) and lockdown have hit those who supply fresh vegetables in local markets. While the transportation of food has been allowed at night, the night movement ban affects the market channels for fresh vegetables, as these are typically sold in the evening because of the hot daytime temperatures that may wilt the produce. In March 2020, Farms were running at 30-40% of their actual capacity as the European demand for horticultural crops has significantly decreased. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that flower farms have lost over 70% of their income in March. Although not a disruption but a worth mentioning coping measure, various institutions have reoriented their business to fill the gap in the supply of PPE and to cut down the cost of buying face masks by engaging in manufacturing face-masks. This example comes from a flower production enterprise in Kenya, that shifted its operations to compensate for the loss of markets for cut flowers.

Note: Disruptions are more likely to occur for women’s food production and food processing businesses. Coping strategies (e.g the reallocation of available land and productive resources towards men’s crops) to overcome the reduction in income may be gender bias and widen existing inequalities as women often have limited voice and influence in household decisions regarding production. Gendered negative impacts were evidenced during the 2014–16 West Africa Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak, during which restrictions on the movement of goods and people hampered women’s trading activities, affecting trade both across borders and between communities (Kapur, 2020; Korkoyah & Wreh, 2015). These restrictions also limited women farmers’ ability to cultivate their land and engage in other agricultural activities, with negative implications for their livelihoods (UNDG 2015; CARE International 2020).

Smallholder access to markets
Support the availability of rural workers and improve their working conditions

In some countries migrant seasonal work is crucial for agriculture.  In Italy, for example, migrant seasonal workers constitute 27% of the agricultural working hours. The production of high value commodities is very labour intensive and therefore more affected by labour shortage. Farmers' unions have estimated a shortfall of about 200 000 seasonal workers in France, 300 000 in Germany and 370 000 in Italy. In Australia, it is estimated that about 50 percent of the labour force in vegetable farms and 30 percent in fruit and nut farms are seasonal and temporary migrant workers. Canadian farms and food processing operations rely on 50 000 to 60 000 migrant workers, while 30 percent of the workforce in the seafood industry is made up of foreign workers. Migrant workers in the United States of America, hired to fill temporary or seasonal agriculture jobs, make up 10 percent of crop farmworkers; while the seafood industry, particularly in Alaska, brings in more than 20 000 migrant workers annually. The shortage of foreign labour, due to the closure of international borders and enforced travel restrictions, poses a tremendous challenge, with impacts on prices and availability of some products.

Many agricultural migrants continue working in indispensable services linked to the food sector. However, many work under informal or irregular arrangements, facing poor housing and working conditions, with no access to healthcare or social protection. They are more likely to be exposed to occupational safety and health hazards, and run a greater risk of contracting and further spreading COVID-19. Many agricultural migrant workers live and work in precarious conditions, often without access to adequate hygiene, sanitation and protective equipment. In some contexts, heavily overcrowded migrant worker settlements run the risk of becoming centers of infection, leading to increased deaths and stigmatization from the local populations. Many workers carpool to work, sharing a single car or being transported to work on packed buses. Migrants also face barriers in accessing information on protective measures related to COVID-19, due to lack of information provided by employers, language barriers, illiteracy and/or limited access to internet. Undocumented migrants face an additional layer of vulnerability as they often have no access to healthcare or social protection in case they get sick or they stop working.

Kenya: The food system heavily relies on small and independent transporters and produce markets. Although food truck drivers have been exempted from lockdown restrictions, the country has experienced a shortage of personnel as concerns arose on safety and the hefty penalties for those flouting the regulations. This resulted in a slowdown and disruption of delivery services, crucial for both imports and exports.

Note: Women are more likely than men to be engaged in informal, short-term, part-time, low-wage jobs and other forms of precarious employment (IASC, 2020). These types of jobs do not guarantee institutional social and economic safeguards such as social insurance, pension or health insurance, leaving rural women unprotected in cases of illness or unemployment.

Smallholder access to markets
Promote the demand for smallholder farmers' products

Changes in consumption patterns and consumer behaviour with reduction in consumption of fresh vegetables and other perishable products that are mostly produced by smallholders.   Markets witnessed an increase in both staple and long-shelf-life food and also strong increase in e-commerce. In Italy, demand for flour increased by 80%, canned meat by 60%, canned beans by 55%, and tomato sauce by 22%, as of March 2020. These trends led to difficulties to sell fresh produce, loss of perishable produce and loss of income. Also, there has been an increase in e-commerce.

Note: Lessons learned from ebola crisis show that in response to reduced available income, poor households adopt coping strategies such as buying less food, switching to less nutritious food and reducing the number of meals eaten daily (FAO, 2017). Moreover, the intrahousehold distribution of food may is likely to favor male members of the family.

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