Rapid assessments of the impact of COVID-19 on the availability of quality seed to farmers
Over the first half of 2020, COVID-19 has expanded across the globe, officially declared a pandemic on March 11th. We are deeply concerned about the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives and livelihoods, and on its disruption to the economy and society. A vast majority of national governments and their health agencies are trying to combat the pandemic by placing restrictions on mobility and encouraging social distancing. We share our appreciation of their efforts, as these measures contribute to a reduction in the likelihood of human mortality, severe health consequences, and the spread of the disease, especially among vulnerable people and communities.
Regrettably, public health efforts have unfortunate effects on the functioning of our economy and food systems. The World Bank (2020) has projected that economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will decline from 2.4% in 2019, and contract by between 2.1% and 5.1% in 2020. This predicts the first recession in the region in 25 years. Agriculture is expected to be one of the most seriously impacted sectors, resulting in many countries in the region facing serious risk of food insecurity. With trade blockages, agricultural production could shrink by 2.6% to 7%. Food imports are expected to decline substantially also, with estimates varying from 13% to 25%. The outlook for Asia is not good either. The Asian Development Bank (2020) forecasts that regional economic growth in developing Asia will decline in 2020, suggesting a downward revision of 3.3% to 2.2%. The High Level Panel of Experts (2020) under the Committee on World Food Security indicates that the COVID-19 crisis is leading to instability in both local and global food markets, causing a disruption to food supply and availability. The poorest people will be the most affected by these disruptions. At the same time, there is a fear that government and development partners will cut agricultural spending and shift priority towards managing the immediate effects of the crisis in public health care. As the crisis unfolds, forecasts are certain to be outdated in the near future.