In the Dominican Republic, pineapple producers and exporters have issued a statement asking the authorities to come to the aid of the sector on which 1,000 families depend (Fresh Plaza, 11 May). The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the sector, which is no longer selling 400,000 fruits a week due to the drop in orders from hotels, restaurants, and markets (which are partially closed), as well as from supermarkets, exports, and the processing industry. The situation was so dire that producers were taking to the streets to try to market their fruits directly, exposing themselves to the virus, for a price that does not offset production costs. They also stated that without assistance more than 100 million pesos of investment will be lost, which will imply the bankruptcy of the sector and unemployment, leaving hundreds of families without sustenance and the impossibility of supplying national and international demand. The joint statement was made by Cevicos Pineapple Producers Association; Agro Piñas del Caribe SRL; Bayanas Gold SAS; Caralinda Agroindustrial SRL; Cooperativa de producers de Piñas de Cevicos; Frutas Chiara SRL; Frudep SRL; Frutas y Vegetales Acevedo SRL; Piñas de Cevicos SRL; and Rancho Carlo SRL.
Quiminha Farms in Angola reports that its plan to export 8,000 tonnes of bananas and potatoes yearly is now likely to be postponed (TechInAfrica, 11 May), with no new date in sight, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Work has already been carried out to tackle the bureaucratic issues to enable smooth exports, so as soon as the global pandemic recedes, potato and banana exports may likely start. Quiminha Farms, the biggest agricultural project in Angola, was created by the Angolan Government in 2012.
The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) has produced a COVID-19 impact assessment on the agri-SMEs and farming communities of Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda. Impacts on agri-SMEs are summarised as:
- Effects on business operations and performance: more than 50% of agri-SMEs are reporting significant negative impact on their business operations and performance
- Impact on ability to source agricultural inputs for sale to farmers: over 40% of agri-SMEs reported significant negative impact on their ability to source agricultural inputs for sale
- Effect on ability to reach farmers with all services: over 45% of agri-SMEs reported significant negative impact on their ability to reach farmers with all services
- Anticipated impacts if ability to reach farmers has been affected: the major anticipated impacts were – farmers not able to travel to retail stores; lack of transport services for supply of stores or delivery to farmers – restricted movement and lockdowns; seeds and inputs (fertilizer, pesticides, etc.) not available from main suppliers
- Effects on access to distribution points: the major effects indicated were: retail traders not coming to buy locally, transport disruptions affecting farmers’ ability to access shops; transport disruptions affecting ability to get inputs to distribution points
- Changed access and cost of money/credit: reduced access to trade credit due to uncertainties; bank credit less available; suppliers’ unwillingness to extend credit; shorter repayment period imposed.
AFAP has also reported on Tanzania’s measures to tackle the virus and the impacts on the rural population. The president has stated that no borders to Tanzania’s neighbours will be closed and he does not expect to lockdown any cities as the maintenance of social-economic prosperity overrides the risks of COVID-19. Despite the measures the government has taken, Tanzania has still witnessed the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector, especially in Zanzibar whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism. A number of hotels on the island and mainland have been closed. This not only affects the workforce who are laid off, but also has a far-reaching impact on families who were supplying vegetables and poultry products to the hotels. This filters down through the value chains, affecting other industries such as those that produce raw materials for animal feeds and other food stuff, which initially originate from smallholder farmers. It is predicted that the above scenario will bring hardship to a big rural population, which will not have enough income to feed everybody, let alone save for the purchase of future inputs. AFAP is planning to collect relevant data, parallel to the official data being given by the government, to guide planning for relief food.
Guinea’s potato production is being hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic (Africaguinee.com, 23 April). In Timbi-Madina, the capital of the potato industry, more than 5,000 tonnes of potatoes are harvested and stored on the spot without any buyers. Mamadou Diallo, sales manager at the storage and marketing platform of the Fouta Djallon peasants’ federation, says “We have cold rooms to store potatoes, one contains 1,500 tons and the other 2,500 tons. In the relay warehouses there are 1,000 tons minimum, that is to say 5,000 tons in stock, not to mention the quantities that are still in the hands of the producers. Other mature fields are not harvested. We are consuming a lot of fuel for conservation, which is increasing. So of course the cost goes up. There are producers who are still not getting paid because there is no market. Conakry is closed, we also evacuated to Liberia and Sierra Leone, but with the closing of the borders, we are blocked in all directions. This is worrying for the sector because it is a perishable product; we are even really worried about the future of the next agricultural season. We are expecting some things from the state and partners to save the sector.”
Rwanda has announced a comprehensive economic recovery plan from May up to the end of December in the first phase (2020) (HortiDaily, 12 May). The plan includes two parts: (1) monetary policy, fiscal policy and interventions in specific sectors such as agriculture, support to private sector, infrastructure projects for growth and jobs, technology and innovation plus mining; (2) the Social Protection Relief and Recovery Plan for COVID19 (SP-RRP). It aims at fixing the negative effects on the vulnerability of rural and urban households by providing a packaged approach addressing different needs related to the #COVID-19 crisis.
In Zimbabwe, the horticulture sector took the hardest hits, as most of the produce is supposed to be marketed fresh and at a particular stage of maturity (HortiDaily, 12 May). The lockdown announced by government effectively meant that no transport was available to ferry produce to the markets, hence producers found themselves stuck with produce. While markets were the first to visibly suffer from the effects of the lockdown, there are agro-dealer shops that were also shut down and may not be operational, or not operating to capacity, causing uncertainty about the availability of their products when the country finally starts to operate effectively. However, it is encouraging to note that in terms of labour, the majority of farmers were not affected, as extra labour was actually made available by the disaster.