THE effects of Covid-19 are undeniably being felt across all sectors of the economy and the agricultural sector is no exception.
With the 2020 agricultural marketing season fast approaching, there is urgent need for the government to give clear Covid-19 guidelines how the process will be conducted without exposing stakeholders to the virus.
The agricultural marketing season is a crucial undertaking in the farming calendar that involves human contact at various stages, a situation which could abate the spread of the disease, especially among rural communities who could still be ignorant about the disease.
Rural dwellers might not be aware of the Covid-19 preventive measures the government has put in place and it is only fair that they are given guidelines to follow during the marketing season.
CTPD SAenior Researcher Simon Manda
This is the more reason Government should give clear Covid-19 guidelines to reduce chances of personal contact and in turn prevent the spread of the disease.
Since Covid-19 was first confirmed in the country in March this year, Government ministries, parastatals and respective private sector companies have had to realign their operations in respect of the Covid-19 guidelines.
For example, some companies and ministries, learning institutions and even churches have even resorted to using technology – online platforms to continue providing services to the public – in this way preventing human-to-human transmission of the virus.
For a sector characterised by various farming undertakings, mostly interactive or involving human contact, the guidelines are inevitably crucial.
To this effect, we fully agree with the Centre for Trade Policy and Development’s (CTPD) calls for government to quickly consider giving clear guidelines before the onset of the agricultural marketing season.
CTPD senior researcher Simon Manda postulates that a cautious approach that considered the local scenario could be advanced with clear agriculture related Covid-19 marketing guidelines as the government continues to fight the virus.
Dr Manda observes that the current policy direction by Government to the Covid-19 crisis was inadequate in as far as a good framework for the fast approaching agriculture marketing season was concerned.
Indeed, this is the first time the country will conduct the agriculture marketing season amid such a deadly and mysterious disease under the “new normal.”
We also agree with Dr Manda that delays to moot Covid-19 agriculture marketing related guidelines might create social and economic problems even worse than the disease itself, especially for rural communities.
We say so because rural communities mainly subsist on agriculture and if not properly handled, the Covid-19 crisis could cause food insecurity among the rural folks.
This should not be allowed to happen. But this is only possible if the government does come up with the Covid-19 agriculture marketing related guidelines as others sectors had done.
It is our sincere hope that the Ministry of Agriculture is already working with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders such as the Food Reserve Agency on the matter before it is too late.
Soon farmers will start transporting their produce to the nearest markets and coming into contact with other buyers in their respective areas and the sooner they are given the guidelines on how to proceed the better.
Procrastination is the thief of time, it is now.