CoVID-19 restrictions likely to affect the cost of food consumed by the poorest

The CoVID-19 pandemic has affected economies through different angles, including, among others, global financial and capital markets, global commodity trade and markets, local supply and demand of goods and services as well as local labour markets and employment.

A virtual country-learning event on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on production, markets, trade, nutrition and poverty in Southern African countries was held with focus on Malawi — which was chaired by Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Lobin C. Lowe.

Amongst the observations made in the case of Malawi was that the first implication of CoVID-19 related restrictions are “disruptions in local staple markets which are likely to affect the cost of food consumed by the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population.”

Dr. Greenwell Matchaya, ReSAKSS Southern Africa Coordinator

This was observed by Dr. Inga Jacobs-Mata, country representative for International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Southern Africa, who began by saying: “CoVID-19 outbreak has placed stress and attention on the importance of food, water and energy security, as governments focus their efforts not only on blocking the transmission of the disease, but also consider how their responses affect food security today and in the future.

“This crisis is affecting workforces, transportation systems and supply chains — the very basis of how our food gets from field to fork. A first implication of Covid-19-related restrictions are disruptions in local staple markets which are likely to affect the cost of food consumed by the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population.

“The effects on food availability and prices as well as changes in incomes may lead to deterioration of nutrition status in the form of micronutrient deficiencies, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

“Price uncertainty and disruption on the supply side could also affect farmers’ incomes.” shared Jacobs-Mata.

Others that participated in the virtual were experts from AKADEMIYA2063; Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) and National Planning Commission of Malawi (NPC).

The event brought forward new evidence to inform decision making on CoVID-19 responses by the Malawi government, and other respective stakeholder constituencies.

It presented analyses on CoVID-19 responses impacts on commodity trade, food systems, and community vulnerability after observing that many Southern African countries including Malawi had put measures in place to control the spread of the pandemic, including states of emergency, curfews and closed borders which in most cases were progressively lifted.

Travel restrictions and constraints to the movement of goods caused logistics breakdowns and labour shortages at different stages along food value chains.

The resulting changes have had significant impacts on the supply of and demand for agricultural and food products.

An example put forward was that data from more than 20 maize grain markets throughout Malawi showed a sudden price decrease from March to May 2020. While 100% of the grain markets had increasing prices by January 2020, by May 2020, there was a general price decline in all grain markets across the country’s rural and urban markets.

“As macroeconomic modelling confirms and predicts global disruptions on commodity markets due to CoVID-19, it has led to a slowdown in economic growth and a deterioration in urban and rural poverty,” stated Dr. Greenwell Matchaya, ReSAKSS Southern Africa Coordinator.

He reaffirmed the importance of such event as it “contributes to the promotion of many of the key objectives in Malawi’s development vision (Malawi Vision 2063), Southern Africa Development Community’s Regional Agricultural Development Policy and the African Union’s Agenda 2063”.

While Dr Ousmane Badiane, executive chairperson at AKADEMIYA2063 said: “Unless countries have a better handle at managing crises such CoVID-19 and similar shocks in the future, it will be hard to achieve the development objectives related to the sustainable agricultural production and food security, improvement of regional integration and international trade as well as those seeking to reduce vulnerability especially of poor sections of society.”

AKADEMIYA2063 is an Africa-based non-profit research organization with headquarters in Kigali, Rwanda, and a regional office in Dakar, Senegal.

Its mission is to create, across Africa and led from Rwanda, state-of-the art technical capacities to support the efforts by the Member States of the African Union to achieve the key goals of the Agenda 2063 of transforming national economies to boost growth and prosperity.

Its main goal is to help meet the needs of African countries in terms of data, analytics and mutual learning for the effective implementation of Agenda 2063 and the realization of its outcomes by a critical mass of member states.

ReSAKSS, established in 2006 under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), supports efforts to promote evidence-and outcome-based policy planning and implementation.

In particular, ReSAKSS provides data and related analytical and knowledge products to facilitate CAADP benchmarking, review, and mutual learning processes.

AKADEMIYA2063 facilitates the work of ReSAKSS in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC), the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD Agency), and leading regional economic communities.

IMWI is an international research-for-development (R4D) organization, with offices in 13 countries and a global network of scientists operating in more than 30 countries.

For over three decades, their research results have led to changes in water management that have contributed to social and economic development across Southern Africa, Africa and the world.

IWMI is also part of the CGIAR, global research partnership for a food-secure future. CGIAR science is dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources and ecosystem services.

Its research is carried out by 15 CGIAR Centres in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organizations and the private sector.

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