Evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in ACP countries – Post date: April 24th, 2020.
Many countries have put in place special measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). These measures, as well as changes in food purchasing habits, have an impact on trade. In addition, concerns are mounting for the health and livelihoods of the workers who produce, deliver and sell our food worldwide. COLEACP remains on standby to keep all stakeholders in the horticultural trade informed about the latest major news on the evolution of the national, regional and international markets.
This status report will be updated and disseminated weekly.
Egypt is now the worst affected country on the African continent, ahead of South Africa, Morocco and Algeria. Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Togo are about to launch clinical trials. 50 million people in West African countries could be affected by food problems, according to a 21 April announcement by eight local and international organisations. The issues include difficult access to food markets due to confinement or curfews, the beginning of price increases, and limited availability of some basic products due to border closures. Ibrahima Coulibaly, President of ROPPA, said: “We hope that political decision-makers and citizens will become more aware of the need to encourage local production and consumption, which has even more meaning and importance today.” The eight signatories are Action Against Hunger; Association for the Promotion of Livestock in the Sahel and Savannah (APESS); Care; Oxfam; Billital Maroobé Network (RBM); Network of Farmers’ and Producers’ Organizations of West Africa (ROPPA); Solidarités International; and Save the Children.
Markets are no longer frequented in the containment areas and there are supply difficulties due to the closure of borders. One of the consequences is the appearance of certain speculative behaviour. However, it should be noted that production is showing surplus rates capable of maintaining food security stocks (maize, cassava, yam).
Botswana has put in place relief measures for business, and has imposed stiff measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, such as restrictions on travel and people movement. The country has also imposed restrictions on transport of raw materials. Importing and exporting companies in Botswana are required to consult the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC). To reduce the impact, Botswana has established a COVID-19 relief fund, which provides financial resources to cater for the procurement of national relief supplies and national publicity outreach programmes. The fund also covers relief for selected industries, public counselling centres, additional staff to support health professionals, and an economic stimulus package post-pandemic. In the medium term, Botswana is also looking to upscale production of horticultural produce, promote market centres for agricultural produce, and enable the National Agro-processing Plant (NAPRO) to absorb all excess production of vegetables.
Since 26 March, 36 markets have been closed. At the beginning of this week it was announced that the central market in Ouagadougou would reopen. This reopening was preceded by activities to raise awareness among traders and customers of the markets on respecting barrier gestures. It is envisaged that the decision to reopen will gradually extend to other markets if barrier measures are respected.
Nearly 780,000 people have been displaced in the interior of the country as a result of climatic hazards and insecurity. Currently, 1.5 million people are in a situation of food vulnerability, but this number could rise to over 2 million with the arrival of the lean season. The closure of borders is causing a supply deficit of more than 700,000 tonnes of rice and wheat, as well as 1.5 million tonnes of cereals. Food aid is planned, and the creation of 150 points of sale at subsidised prices for the supply of 25,000 tonnes of cereals, and the sale at social prices of 4,796 tonnes of cereals.
COVID-19 is having an impact on the country’s economy, particularly through tourism, which contributes to 22% of the national GDP. The country is in a state of emergency and transport between the islands is stopped. Markets are also affected, as the country imports 80% of its staple foods, causing price increases. In addition, the country is entering its third year of drought and the authorities are implementing measures to desalinate drinking and agricultural water. Production is affected by armyworm and locusts, decreasing the contribution of agriculture from 8% to 3% of the country’s GDP.
In 2020 the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER) will make available to the country’s farmers 1.4 million certified cassava cuttings and 1,649 tonnes of high-quality maize seed, aiming to minimise the risk of food shortages in the country. Short-cycle production will be supported so that the local market can be regularly supplied. It is also envisaged to make 1.5 million plantain seedlings available to Cameroonian producers during the 2020 agricultural season, even if this represents only 10% of real needs. To facilitate compliance with barrier measures, Cameroon’s Single Window for Foreign Trade (Guichet unique du commerce extérieur GUCE) is stepping up the digitalisation of its procedures and operating electronic payment for customs duties and taxes.
There has been a 20-day extension of the state of health emergency that began on 31 March. Six of Congo’s 12 departments are affected by the pandemic, with Brazzaville remaining the epicentre of the disease in the country.
The global pandemic has resulted in a halt to hydro-agricultural and agricultural development projects. Agricultural production has fallen by 15 to 20%. The closure of borders is impacting the food security of the country and its neighbouring countries. The Ministry of Agriculture is urgently launching a process of acquiring and distributing agricultural input kits, providing technical support to producers, and supervising the harvesting of agricultural products, along with a supply plan for Abidjan. On 14 April, the Ministry of Agriculture presented the modalities for the agricultural support plan of FCFA 300 billion (€456.8 million), of which FCFA 250 billion is for cash crops and 50 billion for food crops, vegetable and fruit crops, announced on 31 March. For the food-producing sector, this includes urgent measures (acquisition and distribution of agricultural kits to producer groups, identification of suitable production sites and supervision of all producers) and post-COVID-19 measures (development of production sites not covered by the urgent measures, construction of storage infrastructure and establishment of a national food reserve, extension of ploughing and mechanised harvesting) applicable between April and June 2020.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
An extension of the state of emergency, which is due to expire this week, is being considered by Parliament, which is due to vote on 23 April. However, the lockdown since 4 April of the Gombe district of Kinshasa, the seat of government and major embassies, has just been lifted and the inhabitants are now virtually free to move about freely. Banks and supermarkets have reopened.
The capital Libreville and three bordering communes must respect containment, and the obligation to wear masks has been introduced in public places. A massive screening campaign is beginning in Gabon. Two hundred thousand tests have been imported by Gabon.
The combination of drought and COVID-19 is plunging 82,000 people into a food crisis. This number could rise to 137,000 if no action is taken. To avoid this situation, the delivery of agricultural inputs and access to assistance and extension facilities are needed.
The decision has been taken to end the confinement of Accra and Kumasi, with the reopening of all shops and authorisation to resume business activity. However, public gatherings are banned, schools remain closed, and the country’s borders remain closed. The wearing of masks and the application of social distancing rules are requested. The Government states that it is in a position to control the pandemic.
Mauritius is implementing strong measures including a national lockdown and curfew order, and is cited (BBC) as one of the countries with the most stringent lockdown measures in place. As online shopping and home delivery of foodstuffs are growing, the public and food suppliers are being urged to exercise much caution in terms of washing of hands in preparation and handling of food, social distancing and use of masks.
With regard to COVID-19, movement of people in Namibia is restricted as the country is under lockdown. Currently, the market is slow as most institutions are closed, which has seen demand for several products and services go down. Namibia’s Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency is not importing, but is looking at the fruit and fresh produce price lists for post COVID-19 consideration.
Niamey is isolated from the rest of the country to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and a curfew has been imposed between 7pm and 6am. Residents have demonstrated against the containment measures. The measures should end this week.
The authorities are concerned about the major consequences of the crisis on the food and nutritional security of the most vulnerable populations. In addition, there is a real risk of an invasion of armyworms and locusts. At the level of ECOWAS, it is requested to review the food policy of States by facilitating access to inputs, developing food and cereal crops (millet, maize, rice, cowpea) and reducing any dependence on imports. Senegal wishes to increase food production to 4 million tonnes as of next winter. In Casamance, the closure of land borders and the ban on travel between regions prevent the marketing of horticultural products between the north and south of the country.
The country is experiencing a production deficit of 500,000 tonnes of rice and a significant increase in food prices. The country has to cope with the epidemic while 4.6% of the population are food insecure.
Containment measures are being strengthened in the port city of Durban and its province, KwaZulu-Natal. This province is one of the epicentres of the coronavirus epidemic in South Africa. Health workers are particularly affected, causing the temporary closure of three hospitals in Durban.
Regarding the economy, activities in tourism, mining, manufacturing, construction as well as wholesale and retail trade sectors projected will slow down due to the consequences of the pandemic situation. Given the lockdown announced by South Africa, imports from that country are expected to decline in Zambia, with direct adverse impact on wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing and mining. But the Zambia could import from Zimbabwe the essential products feeding into COVID-19 response activities.
Zimbabwe’s national lockdown has been extended by another 14 days to 3 May, but the Government is taking steps to restart the economy by allowing the mining and manufacturing sectors to reopen under rules set by the World Health Organization and public health authorities (The Herald). The city of Mutare has decentralised the operations of the giant Sakubva wholesale market to other high-density areas as a measure to decongest the area and help curb the spread of Covid-19.
Sources: Radio France International; CommodAfrica; The Sunday Mail (19 April); Médiafel (22 April).