The COVID-19 pandemic poses considerable risks to food insecurity, development deficits and limited government capacity.
Before the emergence of the pandemic, food insecurity was already on the rise in the region due to climatic shocks, livestock,pests and diseases that negatively affected the supply chain of producers and consumers in the country. The desert locust outbreak was also a growing concerns.
As the virus spreads and cases mount, Kenya has taken early action to limit the spread of COVID-19, ordering a 21-day nationwide lockdown for its population of 47 million people starting February 19.
The novel coronavirus has spread widely in Kenya relatively recently compared to other countries, and the number of reported infections so far, with 184 cases and 7deaths as of April 9.
As of late March 2020, the impact of the virus on food security and agricultural food systems is already having significant negative effects on people along the food supply chain from producers to consumers.
As of now, there is less food production of high value commodities and disruption in the value chain.
In the fisheries and aquaculture sector, the implications can vary and be quite complex. For wild-capture fisheries, the inability of fishing vessels to operate (due to limited or collapse of market as well as sanitary measures difficult to abide to on board of a vessel) can generate a domino effect throughout the value chains in terms of supply of products, in general, and the availability of specific species. In addition, for wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture, problems in logistics associated with restriction in transportation, border closures, and the reduced demand in restaurants and hotels can generate significant market changes affecting prices.
We are already seeing, however, challenges in terms of the logistics involving the movement of food (not being able to move food from point A to point B), and the pandemic’s impact on livestock sector due to reduced access to animal feed and slaughterhouses’ diminished capacity (due to logistical constraints and labour shortages) similar to what happened in China.
Blockages to transport routes are particularly obstructive for fresh food supply chains and may also result in increased levels of food loss and waste. Fresh fish and aquatic products, which are highly perishable and therefore need to be sold, processed or stored in a relatively limited time are at particular risk.
Transport restrictions and quarantine measures are likely to impede farmers’ and fishers’ access to markets, curbing their productive capacities and hindering them from selling their produce.
Shortages of labour could disrupt production and processing of food, notably for labour intensive industries.
Spikes in prices are not expected in major staples where there is supply, stocks, and production is capital intensive, but are more likely for high value commodities, especially meat and fish in the very short term and perishable commodities. On the other hand, where production is available and demand collapses like in some fisheries, prices are expected to collapse too.
In terms of economic crisis, COVID-19 has lead to a reduction in labour force, and affect incomes and livelihoods as well as labour intensive forms of production.
To address the above concern, the government needs to upgrade standards for hygiene,working conditions and living facilities on agriculture and have measures in place to reduce the impact of the food crises that are bound to arise.