RHORTICAM, in collaboration with COLEACP, carried out a survey of companies and cooperatives in the horticultural sector in Cameroon over 10 days in May to help assess the impact of the current health and economic crisis and to identify support needs. The ten companies that participated in the survey are mainly active in several production sectors simultaneously, with pineapple being the most frequently mentioned sector. The majority of respondents export to the European market (70%), the remaining 30% being active on the local market.
All participating companies, on both local and European markets, stated that they are being impacted by the current crisis. The main impacts are at the level of customer demand (90% of companies are experiencing a drop in demand); and impacts on supply chain logistics, from the supply of products (50% of companies mentioned blocked supplies) to exports (50% lack freight capacity for their products).
The companies on average are losing 12.5 tonnes of product per week as a result of these problems, and only one-third of them have found alternative markets (generally local markets). The identification of alternative markets would be a key benefit to the companies at this time.
From an operational point of view, all participating companies reported that they are experiencing liquidity problems and are unable to pay suppliers (100% of respondents) or employees (80%). The main obstacles to operations are related to supply (80% of respondents), transport (80%) and to a lesser extent the absence of employees (40%).
Companies did not feel well informed about the government aid available to them, and would welcome information and support in applying for and obtaining financial aid.
The majority of World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations (barrier actions) are known and understood by companies and their workers (73% of respondents said that WHO recommendations for all measures combined were known and understood by the company and workers). However, some measures are not applied in day-to-day activities: 65% of respondents said that measures are applied in the stations; 60% said measures are applied at harvest time; and less than 50% said they are transmitting WHO recommended measures to subcontractors (producers, etc.).
The survey results suggest the following priorities for support.
- Market access: identify alternative markets for companies to sell their products.
- Commercial negotiation: once alternative markets have been identified, enhance managers’ skills to promote their products and defend the interests of their company.
- Crisis management support: inform companies about ways to manage their cashflow and secure their supply chain.
- Support for raising awareness on barrier gestures: offer training in good hygiene practices and dissemination of key messages (e.g. via COLEACP’s courses and online training platform).
- Access to finance: identify financing structures that may be able to respond favourably to requests for financing from companies, and assist with required investment plannig.
- Information and communication: provide information on barrier gestures and public health; and also on the aid measures put in place by government (and, where possible, assist companies to apply for government aid).
- Lobbying: approach the government to defend horticultural companies and promote their need for subsidies and/or tax relief in this time of crisis.