IICA Survey: Covid-19 is affecting family farmers and will impact the food supply
San Jose, August 10 2020 (IICA). – Most family farmers in Latin America and Caribbean, who play a key role in ensuring food security, are operating with limited protective gear and sanitary protocols at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and facing limitations while trying to sell their products. This, coupled with the reduced purchasing power of consumers, is affecting production and will have an impact on the supply of basic goods from the sector.
These were the conclusions of a survey by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), which was administered to 118 family farming specialists from 29 countries between May and June.
The survey identified three main difficulties facing farmers during the pandemic:
1) The lack of protective gear and sanitary and biosecurity protocols that would allow farmers to work in safe conditions.
2) Transportation and distribution challenges caused by restrictions on travel and movement that have constrained the commercial transportation of products, or by the decline in available drivers and transport operators, given the restrictions imposed as preventive measures or the fear of the risks associated with transmitting and contracting the virus. Moreover, not all countries have established adequate regulations regarding sanitary and biosecurity protocols to protect transport operators.
3) Limited access to credit for production and reproduction of the family unit, given that, in establishing financial measures and facilities to compensate for the contraction of economic activities, the government has not identified Family Farming as a priority.
Mario León, an Agricultural Engineer and Manager of the Territorial Development and Family Farming Program in IICA’s Directorate of Technical Cooperation, was the survey coordinator. He explained that, “The survey is an extremely accurate snapshot of the family farming sector during this particularly challenging time. Moreover, it also offers public policy options to address the pandemic, focusing on a sector that is key to agricultural employment, the food supply, food and nutritional security and the mitigation of rural flight. In other words, these are policies for a strategic sector that should be a priority”.
The study also revealed a growing concern within the family farming sector about the possibilities of selling food in local markets, given the reduced influx of consumers, due to fears of contracting the virus.
In discussing the supply of family farming products, a considerable number of the respondents confirmed that the negative repercussions of the pandemic were already being felt. Furthermore, it was a widely held opinion that the products that would most likely be affected were grains, cereals and vegetables, followed by fruit, roots and tubers and meat.
Most of them predicted that over the next six months, production will increase or remain the same for specific products such as corn, beans, Andean cereals, sorghum , Musaceae , potato and cassava, whereas there will be a decline in the production of crops such as tomatoes, onions, cabbage and aquaculture products.
“As we look beyond the pandemic, we must establish agriculture as a sector that will be key to economic reactivation”, stressed the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero. “Thus, it will be imperative that we enhance the performance of family farming and the short circuit trade of food products. This will call on us to ensure that these farmers implement good safety and hygiene practices and will also require us to introduce policies that give greater priority to associative enterprises and cooperatives”.
Other proposals for public policies to address the Covid-19 pandemic referred to the need to strengthen horizontal cooperation and regional ties and to establish permanent structural government policies that address the needs of rural and agricultural sectors, particularly family farming – the sector that produces most of the food in Latin America and the Caribbean.
IICA also indicated the need for countries to devise short-, medium- and long-term policies. Specifically, to tackle the current emergency, the recommendation is that countries formulate contingency and preventive plans that should be defined based on inter-institutional and intersectoral cooperation and coordination mechanisms, which also incorporate civil society organizations.
Federico Villarreal, Director of Technical Cooperation at IICA.
Mario León, Manager of the Territorial Development and Family Farming Program, IICA
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