Demand-side risks in Africa’s agriculture owed to COVID-19

Africa’s agriculture structurally remains largely underdeveloped, characterised by low diversification, production of mainly raw materials, food and COVID-19 has also created significant demand-side risks, particularly among poorer populations.

Dependence on extra-regional imports for food makes African countries vulnerable to disruptions in international logistics and distribution, in addition to production problems in other countries due to the

According to a paper titled “Framework For Boosting Intra-African Trade In Agricultural Commodities and Services” authored by Food and Agriculture Organisation, Africa is a net importer of agricultural products in spite of its vast agricultural potential.

“The increase in agricultural and food imports has been particularly striking for basic foodstuffs such as cereals, vegetable oils, sugar, meat and dairy products. Most imports are sourced from outside the region.

“These vulnerabilities could result in food shortages and raise food prices, particularly in countries that are highly dependent on food imports,” read the paper.

The paper has identified three main causes of such vulnerability which include; climate variability and extremes, conflicts, and economic slowdowns and downturns. Conflict-driven crises continue to be the primary cause of the high levels of severe food insecurity, while drought, floods and other shocks have also aggravated food insecurity conditions locally.

“COVID-19 risks further escalating these figures, with likely huge rises in humanitarian needs and food insecurity because of both the pandemic itself and containment efforts.

“COVID-19 is causing a decline in incomes, job losses and a deterioration of livelihoods of the most vulnerable communities. With food and agriculture systems being highly labour-intensive in most African countries, shortages of workers due to restrictions on labour mobility may compromise the provision of inputs in upstream farming activities and downstream trading, processing and transportation activities,” read the paper.

The decline in food imports could also heighten food insecurity in Africa and result in a sharp rise in food prices and rising hunger and malnutrition in food-importing countries.

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