With over 5 million cases and more than 320, 000 deaths across the world as confirmed by BBC News on the 21st of May, 2020, the harmful effects of the Coronavirus pandemic cannot be overemphasized. Worse still is the fact that the pandemic is not only spreading its wings of destruction on human lives but also our economic, agricultural, transportation, and tourism sectors among others.
Of greater concern here, is the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on agriculture and food production. Whereas agriculture refers to the growing of crops and rearing of animals, food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that everyone at all times has physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
Though amidst this period, the impacts of the pandemic on agriculture and food security may not be obvious as food supply has been quite adequate and markets have been stable so far, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) notes that, in the long run, more effects will begin to unravel.
One of these is a reduction in agricultural production. This greatly affects countries that are large importers of agricultural supplements such as fertilizers. The closure of borders prevents farmers from having access to agricultural supplements used to aid crop growth. As a result of this, farmers will have to reduce their rate of production to fit in with the supplements previously on the ground. Also, due to the restrictions placed on movements, labour will more than likely be scarce to get. According to a write up by S. Mahendra Dev titled, “Addressing COVID-19 impacts on agriculture, food security, and livelihoods in India” posted on the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPR) Blog on the 8th of April, 2020, it was noted that the non-availability of migrant labour is interrupting some harvesting activities in Northwest India. Unavailability of labour will cause a reduction in production especially to those agricultural industries that are labour intensive. All these will in turn lead to food shortage.
Asides reduction in agricultural production being the cause of food shortage, the latter can also be caused by inaccessibility to food substances due to closure of borders. This is associated with developing countries that rely more on imports for food supply.
Food shortage will more than likely lead to a rise in the cost of food products. This is sole because demand will be more than supply.
As of 2016, The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that about 815 million people of the 7.6 billion people in the world, were suffering from chronic undernourishment; and that almost all the hungry people live in lower-middle-income countries. The Coronavirus pandemic will more likely than not lead to an increase in these numbers as people will be poorer (an economic effect of the pandemic) and will not be able to afford well-nourished meals.
Another downside of this pandemic is the incurring of losses on farmers as a result of movement restrictions. It is no news that quite a lot of countries have placed a ban or limitation on the movement of people from place to place. This has presented a problem of moving of farm of produce to markets.
Moving on, a reduction in demand is also another effect of the pandemic. This reduction is a result of the closure of restaurants, schools, businesses, and so on -by governments of many countries- that hitherto used to demand agricultural produce. Also, though the demand for food substances such as Rice may not considerably fall, the demand for animal products such as eggs, chicken will fall because a lot of people will focus on getting what will sustain them. For instance, according to a post titled, “How Coronavirus Lockdown Is Affecting Nigeria’s Food Systems”, written by Abdulkareem Mojeed on Premiumtimesng.com, one of the experts interviewed stated that in poultry farming, there is a serious crisis because most of their farmers had eggs but there is no demand.
In conclusion, to minimize the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on agriculture and also to reduce instances of food insecurity, the Food and Agricultural Organization has approved some measures, they include enabling the movement of seasonal workers (while at the same time maintaining hygiene), construction of specifically located storage facilities where farmers can transport their produce to for easier distribution and also the opening of local markets with the caution of physical distancing taken into regard.
Oluwademilade AKINSOLA is a Law student at the University of Ibadan. She has a strong interest in volunteer work (that deals with eliminating poverty and making education available to all) and leadership.
He is a content writer at The Young Leaders Council