ACP news – Post date: May 15th, 2020.

ECTAD CARIBBEAN – “We should be able to resume normal production in the coming weeks”

The Eastern Caribbean Trading Agriculture and Development Organisation (ECTAD CARIBBEAN) says that it is working to support farmers through these difficult times (Fresh Plaza, 11 May). In the Caribbean, protocols have been put in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. But in St Vincent and the Grenadines, where ECTAD CARIBBEAN’s Chief Coordinator Jethro Greene is located, there hasn’t been a total lockdown. He says: “Our farmers are wearing masks and we have extra sanitary procedures in place. We should be able to resume normal production in the next couple of weeks. Right now, we have had shipment issues in the past five to six weeks and there has been some product spoilage because of this. This is in the local markets because people are coming to the markets less often, but also with our exports because there have been some border closures. Fortunately, the European countries haven’t closed their borders to trade so when we can get back up and running, we should be able to recover quickly.”

Greene says that ECTAD CARIBBEAN is mobilising resources and support to supply farmers with basic materials such as seeds and plant nutrients. “We have had both spoilage and underdevelopment of crops, unfortunately. But one of our main focuses is to encourage all people, not just farm families, in the country to start growing more vegetables. We have set up a program for this and believe it’s very important not just for increased overall nutrition but also because it will introduce children to agriculture and teach them to appreciate it. Then maybe in the future they will help expand our agricultural output.”
The nontraditional crop farmers in the Caribbean work mostly with roots and tubers such as dasheen/taro, yams, sweet potatoes, eddoes, ginger and turmeric, and the largest export markets are located in England, the Netherlands, USA and France, as well as supplying the local Caribbean markets.

ECTAD CARIBBEAN is an organisation of small farmers, launched in St Vincent and the Grenadines in 1995, with branches in Suriname and Guyana. It works with farmer organisation partners throughout the Caribbean.

African Group response to postponement of COP 26

The African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN) has issued a response to the coronavirus-related postponement of the 2020 Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 26) (IISD, 12 May). The response states that the Group stands in solidarity with countries impacted by the pandemic, and emphasises the urgency for ambitious collective climate action.

The statement emphasises the vulnerability of African countries to the negative impacts of climate change, calls on developed countries to agree on a path forward to close the climate finance gap in 2020, and stresses the importance of holding COP 27 in 2021 in Africa, as originally planned.

East African business CEOs call for free movement of cargo

Chief executive officers of the national private sector associations in the East African Community (EAC) region have called for free movement of cargo across borders during the COVID-19 pandemic (News Ghana, 9 May). A statement by the East African Business Council said the CEOs urged EAC Member States to agree and implement a coordinated regional approach on COVID-19 to facilitate free movement of cargo across the region. The business executives urged Member States to hold bilateral meetings to unlock barriers to free movement of cargo across the region. They said ministries of EAC affairs should engage the ministries of trade, transport and health in a bid to ensure measures on COVID-19 do not cause unnecessary cost and time burdens for the free movement of goods and services in the region.

COMESA: Preventive and trade facilitation measures in place

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has compiled a Consolidated List of Measures that have been put in place in COMESA Member States in response to COVID-19. The measures listed cover trade facilitation and support to businesses, and protection of the vulnerable from the impact of the spread of the virus, among others. The publication also includes support received from international aid agencies. It includes a trendline on the number of cases reported, as well as contacts for the focal points in the Ministries coordinating COMESA activities in Member States.

How has the pandemic impacted Ugandan businesses?

Uganda’s Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) has published a special issue of the Uganda Business Climate Index examining the effects on businesses of the risks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of a business climate survey indicate that SMEs have experienced the largest effects of the risk associated with COVID-19, compared with large-scale businesses. Specifically, nine out of ten businesses report experiencing an increase in operating expenses due to preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Agricultural enterprises have been worst hit due to challenges of accessing inputs arising from transport restrictions and the ban on weekly markets. In addition, prices of agricultural outputs have declined due to lost demand and the shift from consumption of fresh agricultural produce to dry rations.
With respect to the future outlook, the major concerns highlighted by businesses, in the event that the COVID-19 situation persists for more than six months, relate to reduced product demand and potential inability to meet costs of operations. In particular, the majority of micro- and small businesses indicated that they would exit business in 1 to 3 months if the current situation persists. On the other hand, the majority of medium and large firms do not foresee closure. There is slightly higher resilience among agriculture and manufacturing firms compared to service sector firms.

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