Editorial : Mitigating COVID-19’s challenges confronting agriculture

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At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, little emphasis was placed on food security as analysts were more concerned about disruptions to manufacturing value chains, foreign direct investment and slowdown of economic figures.

It is already known that Africa is vulnerable to food insecurity with adverse climatic conditions, economic shocks, and fast-rising population growth of the continent; food security is a national security issue to most countries in Africa.

Ghana is among the African countries feeling the negative impact of coronavirus on food security systems. As the virus spreads and cases increase, food systems at all levels will be tested and strained in the coming weeks. This is particularly worrying at this moment when the major rainy season is beckoning.

Restrictions of movement impede farmers and food processors from processing. Fear of infection can translate into reduced visits to food markets.

The food supply chain is a complex web that involves producers, consumers, agricultural and fishery inputs, processing and storage, transportation and marketing. Immediate measures are needed to mitigate challenges confronting the agricultural sector and help revive the service and manufacturing industries.

As the virus spreads and cases increase, government must put in place interventions to help regulate prices of food commodities. The National Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO) could play a crucial role in ensuring prices of food commodities remain stable.

More funds need to be injected into the agricultural sector to help food-producing entities stay afloat. National authorities must ensure that trans-border movement of food commodities is not hampered by border closures as a way of controlling the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19, which is a health crisis, could also lead to a hunger pandemic if proper measures are not taken. Governments must work toward meeting the immediate food needs of vulnerable populations. Immediate measures to ensure emergency food needs should be implemented.

It is hoped that owing to the seriousness of disruptions caused by the pandemic to various sectors of the economy, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) will be contemplating a COVID-19 Emergency Food Security Preparedness Plan.

While at it, we should also have in place a long-term strategy to increase investments in local agriculture, commercial farming and greenhouse farming, and operations for increased production, marketing and storage.

In order to avert a looming food crisis, we need to act fast to keep global food supply chains alive while mitigating the pandemic’s impacts across the food systems.

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