April 14, 2020

Today’s important COVID-19 news in the fresh produce sector: Lockdown sparks harvest crises in Pakistan & India

After what hopefully was an excellent Easter weekend for everyone, the news is that the Dole Food Company has launched the ‘Silver lining selfies to spread hope & positivity’ campaign. North Carolina farmers are concerned, but remain hopeful as shutdowns in the US continue and the Canadian federal government has announced new measures to help bring in temporary foreign workers to aid the farming and fishery industries. Experts claim that asparagus prices can be seen as an indicator of the effects of COVID-19 on the global food system. Down under, Australian farmers and people working in agricultural industries are scrambling to protect the food production.

Bulgaria’s politicians are seeking to push through protectionist measures against imported goods, while the FAS has announced actions to stabilise ginger prices. This, and much more, in today’s Corona-virus update.

Dole Launches ‘Silver lining selfies to spread hope & positivity’
Dole Food Company is encouraging Americans to follow the guidance on social distancing and see the silver lining in orders to stay at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The produce provider’s Silver Lining Selfies asks followers to write the answer to the question, “What is the silver lining to having to stay home?,” on a banana, hold it up as a smile and share as a selfie on social media along with the hashtag, #SilverLiningSelfie.

Launching April 8, the initiative concludes April 15, which is National Banana Day. To participate, followers are asked to go to Dole’s Instagram page. Silver Lining Selfies is part of an ongoing mission by Dole to help parents build healthier households, which has taken on urgency due to families staying home because of COVID-19.

North Carolina farmers concerned but hopeful as shutdowns continue
The Wright Brothers Tomato Company grows hundreds of acres of tomatoes every summer for customers across the Carolinas and beyond. During the winter and spring, Wright brings in Florida tomatoes to keep his customers, from schools to institutions, and others supplied. Business shutdowns lately though have changed the business climate.

In Florida and California, where it is harvest time, many vegetable growers have let their crops rot because of a lack of customers.

Ray Wright has been in the tomato business for 52 years through weather and other issues but the coronavirus is something new. “I never seen anything like this,” Wright said. “It’s off probably 40%.”

The growing season is just beginning in the Carolinas and Wright believes the virus situation will stabilize before his crop reaches the harvest stage.

Canadian government announces $50 million for seasonal workers
The federal government has announced new measures to help bring in temporary foreign workers to aid the farming and fishery industries. The government will provide $50 million to enable the workers to self-isolate for two weeks upon arriving in Canada.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, announced new measures to exempt the temporary workers from international travel restrictions on Monday. “The production of fruits and vegetables depends on the contribution of experienced foreign temporary workers right up to harvest time,” she said.

The government will provide up to $1,500 for each worker brought in, to fund their mandatory quarantine period. Bibeau said employers are being warned of “severe fines” for not enforcing the two week self-isolation upon arriving in Canada. “(Workers) in our food supply are essential to ensuring Canadians have access to a variety of high-quality food at a reasonable price.”

Asparagus prices as indicator of COVID effects on global food system
What’s happening to asparagus right now is reflective of how Covid-19 is threatening stability within the global food system. Its average price per pound in US grocery stores has plummeted since the novel coronavirus began to spread across the nation. In early January, it hovered around $3. By early April, it had tumbled some 30% to just over $2. For many consumers, the dollar difference will have a minimal impact. But throughout the rest of the supply chain, it’s got big implications.

Prices are set by the relationship between supply and demand, which has been shaken as the pandemic has impacted certain sectors of the agricultural economy. Goods that one country might typically ship to others have been rejiggered as many nations around the globe grapple with economic shutdowns.

Australian farmers and essential workers protect food security
Australian farmers and people working in agricultural industries are scrambling to protect food and fibre production from the threat of a COVID-19 shutdown.

Essential agricultural workers are continuing to travel across regional areas and some state boundaries and, while most Australians are confined to their neighbourhoods, farmers must allow seasonal workers onto their properties for essential work, such as picking crops or shearing sheep.

But human biosecurity is at the forefront this season. COVID-19 restrictions and risks of shutdown in the event of an infection are a challenge for horticulturalists whose businesses rely on itinerant and seasonal labour.

Bulgaria wants to put imported food under quarantine
Bulgaria’s ruling politicians are seeking to push through protectionist measures against imported goods, claiming they are just looking after local food producers in the conditions of the coronavirus crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Krasimir Karakachanov proposed on Friday (10 April) to ban imports of foreign food products until the Bulgarian production is exhausted. Karakachanov, the leader of the nationalist VMRO party, a junior coalition partner in Boyko Borissov’s cabinet, urged the government to oblige the economy minister to stop the import and sale of fruits and vegetables during the harvesting season of Bulgarian fruits and vegetables until the locally grown supplies are exhausted.

According to the project, all food retail chains should set aside places (stands, racks, refrigerated showcases, etc.) for Bulgarian food, which must cover at least half the area for each of the different food groups.

These foods must originate directly from the producers in the respective geographic area of ​​each store, or from up to 200 km away from the district centre. Such products cannot be sold at promotional prices, except with the express written consent of the manufacturer.

Florida farmers struggle to sell produce
Florida farmers are finding themselves with a surplus of fruits and vegetables with nowhere to sell it. With restaurants, the biggest consumers of Florida-grown produce, closed except for takeout and delivery, Florida farmers are finding themselves with a surplus of fruits and vegetables with nowhere to sell it.

To help Florida’s farmers as well as residents in need of fresh, nutritious foods during the coronavirus pandemic, on Thursday Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced the creation of a Florida Farm to You commodities list. The list is intended to connect consumers with producers of Florida-grown commodities like fruit, vegetables, seafood, poultry and dairy.

FAS announced price stabilization for ginger
A sharp jump in prices was caused by the actions of speculators and unscrupulous traders, the spread of the Internet and the media false information about the properties of ginger in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, said the Agency.

Air India to ferry fruits & vegetables to London and Frankfurt
Two Air India flights, operating under the Krishi Udan programme, would be carrying seasonal fruits and vegetables to London and Germany’s Frankfurt.

“Air India has scheduled operations to London on April 13 and Frankfurt on April 15 under Krishi Udan programme. Both flights would be carrying seasonal fruits and vegetables from Indian farmers,” a senior functionary in the government stated. On their return journey they would be bringing essential medical supplies.

The Krishi Udan scheme has been started by the government to assist farmers in transporting agricultural products abroad.  Meanwhile, an air bridge connection has also been established by the centre with China from April 4 onward for transportation of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and COVID-19 relief material.

India: Market sales times set for fruit and vegetable shopping
The Indian government is easing the fruits and vegetable shopping in Azadpur Mandi – the largest wholesale fruit and vegetable market in the country. Delhi government has issued orders to sell vegetables and fruits as per the new timing. While vegetable will be sold in morning 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., fruits will be sold in the evening from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The orders will be implemented from Monday.

District Magistrate (North Delhi) and District Disaster Management Authority chairman Deepak Shinde on Saturday passed an order which said token system will be implemented for the entry of the buyers in Azadpur mandi and sale of vegetables and fruits will be in different shifts. At least three policemen will be deployed in each shift. The joint team of mandi officials and policemen will have at least five officers.

Indian state governments buy from farmers to ease distress
In the absence of trading and market auctions, many Indian farmers are finding it difficult to sell their produce, resulting in the piling up of vegetables and fruits at several places. The Kerala government has actively reached out to farmers and consumers and has announced a large relief package, including free distribution of essentials to the people.

Local governments across several states are procuring fruits and vegetables directly from farms to ease rural distress and provide essential supplies to customers.

Cambodia: Mango prices must stay the same
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has issued measures to prevent the drop in price of mangoes, which has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the ministry.

The Ministry said that while the Cambodian government is fighting against the spread of Coronavirus, the disease does not only affect public health but it hurts the economy, both directly and indirectly, especially because it has caused a drop in the prices of some agricultural products, including mangoes.

To prevent a further drop in mango prices, the ministry has announced measures, including urging all provincial agriculture departments to cooperate with departments involved in the agro-industry to work closely with farmers to register their businesses with related ministries or departments that would make it easy for production management control.

Malaysia faces food import crisis
The Malaysian government should look into the worldwide food security issues raised by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said former Agriculture and Agro-based Industry deputy minister Sim Tze Tzin. He said the lockdown imposed by several countries had affected the global supply chain.

“People are finding it difficult to access quality and nutritious food. We urge the Government to look into the issues raised by the FAO. Malaysia imports RM50bil of food every year so when there is a global supply chain problem, we will be affected. For example, we import a lot of onions from India but now India is undergoing a national lockdown. Farmers there have difficulty transporting their onions from the rural areas to the cities and ports and finally to Malaysia.”

Indian Agri Ministry launches a call centre for logistics
India’s Ministry for Agriculture has set up a call centre to ease the difficulties in agri logistics, particularly the inter-State movement of perishable vegetables and fruits as well as agri inputs such as seeds, pesticides and fertilisers, an official statement said on Monday.

The All India Agri Transport Call Centre, which will coordinate movement of produce and agri inputs, can be accessed at 1800-180-4200 and 14488 from any mobile or landline phone, the statement said.

Stakeholders including truck drivers, traders, retailers, and transporters who are facing problems in inter-State movement of commodities, can seek help by calling at the call centre. It will forward the vehicle and consignment details, along with the nature of help needed, to State government officials for immediate action, it said.

The Ministry also said the subsidy for seeds under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) would be available only for varieties less than 10 years old. However, this will be extended to seeds of all crops under NFSM required by the North-East States, States in hilly region as well as by the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Lockdown sparks harvest crises in Pakistan & India
Trees have bent, bearing the load of ripened summer fruits and a bumper crop of wheat in a golden hue is ready for harvest in the fields, spread across the plains of Pakistan and India.

But in the absence of labor and means of transportation due to lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 or coronavirus, millions of farmers are staring at another disaster, watching their produce rotting in their fields. The harvest of famed fruit of the region mango is also just a month away. Experts believe that the phenomenon will have cascading effects on the region’s food security.

Around 70% of Pakistan’s small farmers rely on traditional farm laborers, who come from the remote or the low-income areas before the harvesting season. They could not make it this time due to weeks-long lockdown.

Indian vendor sanitises his fruits as well
Fruit vendor of Koraput town, A. Kiran Kumar, is the first vendor in the town to market “sanitised” fruits. And for the purpose, Kumar has created a herbal sanitiser which he rubs on the fruits before selling them to health conscious people.

After the lockdown, although supply of fruits to the town was normal but sales were down as people focused only on buying vegetables and grocery. Besides, some people were skeptical about eating raw fruits fearing infection. Kumar, like the other vendors, suffered huge loss for a week as his fruit stocks perished in the absence of buyers. That is when the idea of sanitising the fruits stuck him.

Eleven international organizations unite to secure food systems, agriculture and trade
The heads of Food and Agriculture for Latin America and the Caribbean from international organizations have agreed to jointly support agriculture and food systems.

Eleven international organizations agreed to join forces to help Latin American and Caribbean countries secure their food systems and maintain agriculture and food trade during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Liberian farming operations exempted in lockdown counties
Farmers and other people working along the food-value chain in Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba and Grand Kru counties will continue business as usual during a 14-day lockdown restriction. The lockdown is expected to take effect as of Friday, April 10.

President George M. Weah, who declared the State of Emergency Wednesday, April 8 when he addressed the nation about his government’s plan for containing the novel Coronavirus, said that people that are involved in the production, distribution, and marketing of food in the four surveillance counties are exempted from the “stay home” restriction.

The President, however, instructed the Ministry of Internal Affairs to engage the leadership of marketing associations in the lockdown counties to make satisfactory arrangements about the operation of markets during the 14 days. This, he said during his speech, is to ensure the observance of social distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols.

Indian mango farmers face tough marketing in Telangana
The Telangana mango yield has been low so far and due to the current lockdown, these fruits -often heading to the Hyderabad fruit market- may even see a low demand, which could lead to more problems.

Mangoes from across Telangana are going to head to the markets, from where they get distributed to vendors, local markets and also to other States. However, lockdown due to Covid-19 outbreak this year has posed a serious marketing challenge for mango growers across Palamuru region and Telangana at large.

And to make matters worse, hailstorms and strong winds have caused large-scale damage to mango gardens in parts of Wanaparthy district.


Share This