Addressing COVID-19 Impacts on Agriculture: From Farm to Fork

COVID-19 has badly affected the agriculture and thus, it has raised a new challenge before us.

Although China was once the cradle of the COVID-19 as the epidemic it is transformed into a pandemic thus affecting all the continents of the world with astonishing speed thus far-reaching socio-economic and political impact. Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan economy and the sector directly supports the country’s population and accounts for 19% of GDP, 42% of the labor force is indirectly and 60% of the population in total relates to this sector. Agriculture contributes to our economy not only by fulfilling domestic needs but also through its contribution in exports, provision of raw material to the industries, employment, infrastructure development, development of banking sector, dairy farming, support to textiles, and reduction in rural poverty.

According to UNDP population growth rate of Pakistan is 2% per year which in turn increases the requirement for food. The agricultural sector emerged as a savior to the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Experts said that COVID-19 is an opportunity to transform and grow Pakistan’s Agriculture sector that secures enough indigenous food availability and assists us to attain GDP growth. In the current scenario, economists believe that Pakistan’s GDP contract to -1.5% against a target of 4% for FY20 while SBP projects 2% for the next fiscal year so in this situation, experts believe that we can achieve sustainable economic growth with the support of Agriculture.

In the current pandemic crisis entire world is experiencing sudden and surprising shocks due to partial to complete lockdowns and economic indicators tumbling across the nations with stock markets crashing along with the closure of industries and decline in the service sector. Present lockdowns have proved that agriculture is the only sector that supports economies at a crucial time as the demand for food items is increasing at an increasing rate which enforce Governments to provide necessary financial support to this sector to ensure food security.

The agriculture sector emphasizes that for the countries like Pakistan ensuring food security for a population of more than 200 million is extremely vital. In this critical situation of covid-19 human beings try their best that they do not run out of food supplies. They rush to grocery stores to secure as much food supply as possible, which puts the food and agriculture industry under enormous pressure The global markets for basic cereals are well supplied right now and prices are not skyrocketing as compared to the 2006-2007 global food crisis. The situation is very different this time because food scarcity is not a dilemma, but the problem is the movement of the food from world food basket markets to where they are needed.

The pandemic is disturbing the food market equilibrium by disrupting the supply chain which will affect both the supply side and the demand side. If we talk about the supply side, transport restrictions, shortage of labor, and farmers’ limited access to the market are shifting paradigms in agricultural production. The food supply chain mainly consists of two food groups: Cereal Group (wheat, rice, soybeans, corn, etc.) and Fresh Produce Group (vegetables and fruits).

In developed countries, the former group is heavily mechanized, and it would not be affected by the shortage of labor but the latter group, both in developed and in developing countries highly relies on labor.
In America only, temporary foreign visa workers who mainly come from Mexico make up 20% of the farms’ workforce. In the wake of COVID-19, the recent suspension of all immigrant and non-immigrant visas temporarily by the American government has raised concerns for American farmers.

In addition to the labor shortage, both food groups are being equally affected by transport restrictions as governments will not allow food trucks in, to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus. On the demand side, the impact of COVID-19 on global food security is even worse due to the panic buying behavior. If such panic buying continued for a long time, and people kept hoarding, eventually it would spike up prices and make the food items expensive. Due to less profitability, fertile land is transforming into colonies so, Govt should eliminate the middle man to transfer direct benefits to the cultivators. Due to the current crisis and low profitability farmers are switching from cotton production to sugar and other goods which will definitely affect not only our foreign exchange but also our textile and garment industry. We always follow technology adopted by others instead of its propagation.

COVID-19 is not only harming global food security, but it could lead to severe consequences. Pakistan’s agriculture sector which contributes less than 20% to the GDP would witness an unprecedented decline the paramount focus in times of a lockdown is to ensure a sufficient supply of food. In a deep dive into forecasting the impact of Coronavirus on the agri-sector, it is important to identify comparable events and track their effects. Pakistan’s top export items are food and textile which are primarily linked to agriculture and considering the apparent slowdown in demand in the foreign importing partners, it will inevitably hurt our exports. Therefore, all the numbers hint that the agri-sector and associated input providers along with the relevant supply chain would be adversely impacted by the prevalent pandemic.

With the spread of COVID-19, countries around the globe including Pakistan have enforced lockdowns or shelter in place. It has resulted in partial or full closure of most of the industries and wreaked havoc on the economy. In such a critical situation, human beings try their best that they do not run out of food supplies. They rush to grocery stores to secure as much food supply as possible, which puts the food and agriculture industry under enormous pressure. It is affecting both the supply side and the demand side. On the supply side, transportations restrictions, shortage of labor, and farmers’ limited access to the market are shifting paradigms in agricultural production. The food supply chain mainly consists of two food groups; cereal group (wheat, rice, soybeans, corn, etc.) and fresh produce group (vegetables and fruits). The pandemic is disturbing the food market equilibrium by disrupting the demand and supply chain.

Exit mobile version