Pacific Farmers Have Their Say: Food Accessibility Affected As Demand Soars

May 2020

Increase Investment On Small Scale Agriculture

Food accessibility is fast becoming an issue following the global lockdown as many turn to backyard gardening

On Friday May 8, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) announced world merchandise trade will take a plunge by between 13 and 32% in 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

WTO economists believe the impacts brought on by the decline will likely exceed those of the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, and as General Manager of Nature’s Way Co-operative Donald Pickering said will be, “a shock to small countries.”

“It’s a global issue and it will be a shock to small countries including Fiji, we’re already feeling its impacts which is somewhat unusual as it affects both lives and livelihoods and the significant elements of both food supply and demands.”

“Border closures, quarantines, and market, supply chain and trade disruptions have restricted exported and people’s access to sufficient exports of fresh produces.”

He said: “It’s only going to get harder with the spread of COVID 19, challenges like logistics bottlenecks of not being able to transport food suppliers within country due to cities lockdown, strict movements and curfew put in place.”

In addition to the impacts of TC Harold, the global lockdown has had domino effects in the Pacific with potential threats to food accessibility.

“The demand for food is increasing but we’re also seeing a high interest in farming particularly in home gardening which is a positive impact for Fiji’s agricultural sector.”

He said: “The issues are far-ranging; we’re losing markets and we’re also seeing its size reduce, our traders are no longer buying from farmers while distribution channels have presented a unique set of challenges brought on by COVID 19 in addition to quarantine that’s creating further problems for farmers to sell their produce.”

“The concern for us is namely the economic challenges presented by the high cost of freight and irregular international flights to our main markets in Australia and New Zealand.”

Nature’s Way Co-operative is currently working with Pacific Island Farmers Organsiation Network, Pacific Agribusiness Research Development Initiative and Phama Plus, Departments of Cooperatives to mitigate impacts.

“We have in the past carried out a rapid survey of the impacts of TC Winston and the April Floods on its members from Sigatoka to Yaqara, it isn’t any different now going forward as we look to identify our most vulnerable members while also strengthening our networks and outreach.”

Pickering said the opportunity for farmer organisations, development partners and governments is in working together.

“COVID 19 is a global pandemic that’s already having tangible effects on our agriculture sector affecting the livelihoods of poor rural farmers who depend on agriculture.”

“Investments in small-scale agriculture can help revive food production and create jobs following a crisis of unemployment and enable rural communities to recover.”

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