Testimonies news – Post date: May 8th 2020.

The 2020 mango export campaign has been launched, and Burkina Faso’s mango export sector is organising itself in the difficult context of limited air freight capacity to European markets. A group of producers/exporters managed to organise the first cargo flight of the campaign, working with Ethopian Airlines to charter a passenger aircraft transformed into a 100 tonne cargo plane. With the support of the Burkinabe authorities, this charter obtained permission to land in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city in Burkina Faso, located as close as possible to the mango production areas. Originally scheduled for 28 April, the flight was postponed several times due to complexities of the charter contract. The plane finally arrived during the night of 2–3 May. However, the 100 tonnes of fruit for export had been sent to the non-refrigerated storage areas of Bobo-Dioulasso airport on 26 April. Throughout the carry-over period, the fruit had to be regularly sorted to ensure export quality on departure; by the time of loading, only 52 tonnes were allowed on board. The flight to Frankfurt, Germany left on the morning of 3 May, first bound for Addis Abbaba and arriving at its final European destination the same evening. Unfortunately there was a further delay of two days on arrival in Europe because the original documents accompanying the load, necessary for customs clearance, had been forgotten by the crew at Addis. These various events have had significant commercial consequences, as the quality of the fruit had deteriorated and it was not possible to market it in good condition.

Ethiopian Airlines charter flight programme from Burkina Faso:
7/05 – 45 t of mangoes to Brussels via Addis Abbaba
9/05 – 44 t of mangoes to Brussels via Addis Abbaba
The current freight cost is USD 1.75/kg (960 FCFA/kg), compared to a normal price of 580 FCFA/kg.

The mango season in The Gambia has started, and larger, more organised companies are shipping successfully by sea via Senegal or Banjul; however some other companies have experienced some difficulty.

A fruit producer in Sierra Leone who is having difficulty marketing his fresh produce under COVID-19 is planning to move into processing. COLEACP support has already begun, starting with sharing experiences of drying operators in the sub-region, and mobilising expertise to provide support from a distance. The products concerned are dried fruits from mango, pineapple, banana and pawpaw, and sauces and flakes produced from habanero peppers. Many SMEs are considering seizing processing opportunities in the context of COVID-19 in order to avoid losing their production and to enhance its value. COLEACP is accelerating support in this area as part of its COVID-19 action plan.

A pineapple exporter in Mauritius reports that they are unable to sell either locally or internationally, and producers are suffering. Exports are concentrated mainly to Europe, where the virus is hitting hard. Farms are not insured and the pineapples are ripe and ready to be harvested, but with no potential buyers.

Kanya Donsé Fanyi (KDF), a development association in Kindia Prefecture, Guinea-Conakry, supports agri-food, nutrition and training. The NGO, a COLEACP member, works with production, processing, distribution and marketing of local foods, and provides training and extension for local food technologies. KDF’s President, Ms Abiba Diallo, has posted the following urgent statement:
“We are fully suffering the consequences of the health crisis in Guinea: activities have stopped; there is a significant loss of income; we are unable to pay producers and salaries; and the sustainability of the NGO’s activity is under serious threat. The situation is urgent. At the moment, financial support is our main need in this period of health crisis.”

An IFOAM blog post, “The resilience of smallholder farmers in times of crisis”, describes how smallholder organic farmers in Uganda have been propelled into the limelight as the heroes of the production sector, playing a major role in nourishing large urban populations, while larger-scale farmers feel the impacts of COVID-19 more severely. In many cases, small-scale organic farmers are supplying most of the food to local village markets. Even during the lockdown, they continue going to their farms as they normally would, the only difference being that they have to be home before 7 pm as no movement is allowed on the streets during the lockdown past that time. The government has left the decision to large-scale farmers to either stop their workers from coming to work, or provide accommodation near the farm for them; as this is costly, some have decided to halt work altogether, while others may be offering sub-standard accommodation. In these circumstances smallholder farmers will become the major players in farming, supplying food to feed those in the cities and towns. The pandemic is showing the importance of small-scale farming in the economy, and that it is possible to farm without expensive chemical fertilisers.

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