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Mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on access to markets and regional food supply
17 April, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic takes clasp in Africa, several countries have begun to tighten borders, restrict gatherings and movements of people. While restrictions are essential to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), a paramount concern is continuity of food supply chain activities. Small holder farmers produce 70-80% of the world’s food. The food production and supply system in Africa is dominated by smallholder farming employing more than 60% of the population. Restrictions of movements in the face of COVID-19 therefore affect access to labour, input supplies (fertilizers, seed, agro-chemicals), processing plants, distributors, retailers, and consumers among others. Farmers are already facing a daunting planting/ harvesting season arising from limited access to labour supply. Additionally, accumulation of fresh produce without being sold has resulted into food losses/wastage and loss of income earning opportunities making it more of a struggle for farmers to assure continuous food supply.
SDGC/A highly commends African countries that have taken serious measures including lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19 and those that have made provisions to facilitate continued farming activities and food markets. SDGC/A urges African governments to:
- reduce uncertainty and strengthen market transparency through timely and reliable dissemination of information using e-platforms to guide farmers to make timely and rational marketing and production decisions;
- ensure that online agricultural marketing channels such as smartphone applications, social media and e-commerce sites are utilized and accessible by smallholder farmers and that they provide adequate information on prices, standards, time and physical spots where goods and supplies can be collected from;
- ensure that prompt and decisive measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 recognise food supply chain activities as essential goods;
- establish strategic collection centres for purchase and sell of agricultural products; and governments should provide safe work and protective equipment to enable workers perform urgent and necessary tasks to keep the agricultural supply chain robust;
- persuade financial institutions, through the Central Bank, to support farmers and agribusinesses by waiving fees on their outstanding loans, extending payment due dates, or injecting capital into the agriculture sector to help farmers, agribusinesses and their work force to stay afloat.
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