Agriculture still feeling the pinch

Although agriculture is classified as an essential service, supply disruptions are still being experienced and logistics are under pressure.

21 October 2020 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



Measures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus caused disruptions in food chains in Namibia, which in turn posed a threat of poverty and hunger to vulnerable communities in the country.

This is according to agriculture deputy minister Anna Shiweda, who was speaking at World Food Day, commemorated in the Ohangwena Region recently under the theme 'Grow, Nourish, Sustain, Together. Our actions are our Future'.

“Despite the fact that agriculture is placed in the essential services category, supply disruptions are still being experienced and logistics are under pressure, resulting in a general reduction in the volume of products and agricultural inputs,” she said.

Agriculture supports the livelihoods of about 70% of the Namibian population and contributes to 15.3% of the country's employment, she added.

“The transport restrictions instituted during lockdowns impacted many other processes in the food chain. Access to markets - be it to buy inputs or sell outputs - have been heavily hit and some farmers say they have been forced to sell produce at giveaway prices.”

Labour shortages

Shiweda said as the pandemic worsened, movement restrictions became more stringent, causing labour shortages.

To achieve food and nutrition security as well as promote sustainable agriculture, which includes a healthy diet that is affordable to the majority of the population, the ministry will focus on the development of sustainable food systems, she said.

It will also develop and implement policies that support increased investments in agriculture research, production and value-addition and promote and support sufficient nutrient-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables.

Shiweda said the ministry will furthermore put in place measures to reduce food losses and waste in order to ensure food security, in particular at household level, and ensure that government's effort to roll out a campaign against the coronavirus will include measures aimed at lessening shocks to food supply chains.

Chronic hunger

The Food and Agriculture Organisation's State of Food Security and Nutrition 2020 report revealed that three billion people in the world cannot afford a healthy diet.

“Chronic hunger continued to increase over the past four years and stood at 690 million in 2019, while 10 million more hungry people have been added to the list in just one year.”

Additionally, two billion people globally did not have access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food in 2019.

“Currently, humanity is facing the coronavirus pandemic. There is sufficient evidence to affirm that the pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease has a significant effect on agriculture and the food supply chain, mainly affecting food demand and consequently food security, with a great impact on the most vulnerable population.

“It is estimated that with the ongoing pandemic, between 83 and 132 million more people could become food insecure,” the report read.

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