According to an analysis by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD, 2 June), West African countries could experience only a limited impact on their food production due to Covid-19. The study mentions several factors, including a drop in fertiliser prices due to the decrease in oil prices. Many countries are introducing low-input crops and crop protection products (cassava, yam, plantain, sorghum); and for other more input-intensive crops they have stocks available. Agricultural labourers have remained mostly in the production areas (except for border labour used in cocoa plantations), and the pandemic has mostly affected urban rather than rural areas. The analysis also indicates that the crisis could have beneficial effects on the production and marketing of local food crops: populations are expected to consume more local products (cereals, cassava, yams, plantain bananas) than imported products (rice, wheat) due to lower local transport prices. The closure of the border with Morocco, which no longer allows the import of oranges and onions into West Africa, should encourage consumers to buy more local fruit and vegetables. And the fall in international prices of certain products (cotton, rubber, cashew, sesame, etc.) has encouraged farmers to turn to market gardening for the local market. But there will also be challenges for farmers, for example changing their crop rotations quickly, especially when they have invested in perennial crops. It will also be challenging to rapidly offer healthy, labelled vegetables from agro-ecological systems to demanding customers used to buying imported processed or frozen products. (See Commodafrica, 3 June)
A study of the impact of Covid-19 on households and the informal sector, carried out by the National Institute of Statistics with the support of UNDP in Côte d’Ivoire, reveals that containment measures resulted in a 47.2% drop in the average annual income of heads of households, and an increase in the number of households falling below the poverty line (Commodafrica, 2 June). Nearly 80% of the heads of household surveyed said that their jobs had been affected by the containment measures. For the informal sector, 96% of heads of informal production units said their activities have been sharply reduced since the beginning of the pandemic. A World Food Programme survey of households in the district of Abidjan shows that nearly 26% of households have had difficulties in accessing the market, and more than 60% have experienced economic difficulties due to prices that are very much higher than normal.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
At the beginning of May, the European Union allocated €3.25 billion to the African continent for the fight against coronavirus. Three African countries have so far benefited from a humanitarian airlift, the Central African Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, and now the DRC (RFI, 8 June). From 8 June, a total of three flights within 72 hours are planned to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Medical or health equipment and NGO staff will be transported from Brussels.
A survey of agribusinesses conducted by the Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana (CAG) shows that they have been heavily impacted by Covid-19, with a drop in monthly revenues of more than 60% (Commodafrica, 2 June). Small and medium-sized agribusinesses were the most affected, with a 77.4% reduction in turnover, while large companies resisted better. More than 80% of the agri-food companies surveyed experienced disruptions in their business activities, an increase in their business, a reduction in supply and production, and difficulties in ensuring the payment of salaries, meeting tax obligations and dealing with the threat to the health and lives of employees. The CAG has asked the authorities to identify the main food production areas and prioritise resources: priority crops for food security should be rice, maize, soybean, sorghum, yam, potato, cowpea, cassava, millet and groundnut.
As the authorities have extended the state of emergency until the end of June, new support measures have been announced to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the agricultural sector (Commodafrica, 4 June). To this end, the state will finance FCFA 2.2 billion (€3.354 million), including FCFA 1 billion to market outstanding horticultural production, and FCFA 1.2 billion for the purchase of rice harvesting equipment. In addition, 700 units of motorised agricultural equipment intended for women and young people with agricultural initiatives will be 100% subsidised under the agricultural programme 2020/21, financed by the state to the tune of FCFA 60 billion.
The authorities have eased deconfinement measures, allowing nearly 8 million more people to return to their workplaces as of 1 June, in an attempt to ensure a recovery in economic activity as the Central Bank is forecasting a 7% slowdown in activity in 2020 and the loss of several million jobs (RFI, 1 June). Activity is almost normal on the streets of the big cities, and domestic air links have resumed for business trips. However, restriction levels could change over time. According to experts, South Africa is expected to experience the peak of the epidemic between July and September.
The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) reports that on 14 May the authorities extended the period of restrictions for a further 14 days. A number of businesses were allowed to reopen, including wholesalers, garages, warehouses, craftsmen, insurance companies, law offices (30 maximum) and restaurants (serving take-away food). However, schools, airports and borders are still closed. The movement of people, public and private transport, and the use of two-wheeled vehicles was restricted until 20 May 2020. The curfew from 7 p.m. is still in force and the only vehicles allowed to travel after this time are cargo planes, trucks, pickups and trains. Companies are advised to hire a bus to transport their staff, to stay at their workplace, to cycle or to walk to avoid any spread of the virus. Wearing a mask in the street is mandatory.