Since its outbreak in late December 2019, the Covid-19 global pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world’s economy.
Like any other industry, the agricultural sector has also suffered a fair share of this impact. Although food supply has not been cut off completely, the restrictive measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus are disrupting agro-food supply chains across national borders. It’s evident that the coronavirus has damaging consequences on food security, the income of farmers and fishers, and some agricultural business owners.
Limitations on agricultural production and income
Coronavirus restrictions have limited people’s freedom of movement across national borders. As a result of the lockdown, agricultural business owners in many countries have reported a shortage of labor. In particular, businesses with peak seasonal labor demands have been dealt a significant blow by the pandemic.
In the northern hemisphere, a shortage of labor could cause massive losses during harvesting seasons. Coronavirus disruption may also put pressure on storage facilities and further increase losses for highly perishable products. Consequently, agricultural business owners may record massive income losses compared to pre-COVID years.
Shifts in consumer demands
Some experts fear that the global pandemic may push major economies to enter a recession. In advanced economies, consumer demand and employment rates may also reduce. The fall in consumption of restaurant food will also largely affect agricultural business owners in developed countries.
Globally, demand is also shifting away from higher-value commodities towards readily consumable foods that can be stored. The e-commerce market is skyrocketing as brick-and-mortar stores switch to the internet. Agricultural business owners who embrace digital marketing strategies can leverage the benefits of agricultural advertising.
Market and farm prices
Because some regions are experiencing the second wave of the pandemic, social distancing directives, and travel restrictions are far from being lifted completely. That’s because social isolation and other protective measures help slow the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, consumers are also forced to make tough decisions while managing their finances and discouraging themselves from eating away from home. Food service sales may therefore be greatly disrupted.
Overall, markets and prices will surely not remain the same in the age of the pandemic. Ports in many countries have been hit with bottlenecks as ships now have to wait longer to be offloaded. A global recession similar to that of 2008-2009 could push the recovery of prices of goods such as milk off for another year.
Supply chain slowdowns and shortages
Due to disruption to logistics and growing efforts to control the virus, several connected industrial sectors across the business ecosystem have been impacted by Covid-19. Panic buying is creating serious concerns for some agricultural products. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) predicts that animal pharmaceutical products could be in limited supply moving forward.
If the pandemic were to hit hard at an agricultural state such as Wisconsin, American farmers could experience significant issues with farm product delivery. Many people will be taken ill, and several others will stay home to care for their family members. This chain of events may slow down supply chains and cause shortages.
Many farmers in the Midwest are relatively old as compared to the average worker population. In 2017, an agriculture census showed that the average farm operator is at least 58 years old. Most workers in other sectors are ten years younger than that age. Contrary to the age distribution of other industry workers, about 26% of farm operators are aged 65+ years. The bad news about these statistics is that studies have shown that the Coronavirus symptoms are much severe in senior citizens. This means that older farmers are at a greater risk of suffering life-threatening complications if they were to catch the virus. Consequently, agricultural productivity may plummet.
Impact on horse boarding
Following the outbreak of the virus, managers of horse boarding facilities have had to implement precautionary measures to keep their businesses safe. If you own an equine facility with public exposure, you can make money renting your horses to people who enjoy horseback riding. Having said that, horse riding competitions and other group activities have been suspended in some locations due to the coronavirus.
However, equestrians who want to ride their horse during quarantine will need to make extra investments to keep themselves and their animals safe. Obeying social distancing directives means that you have to limit the number of people using your facility at a time. Horse caretakers also have to invest in sanitizers for riders to disinfect their hands.
Worker safety and PPE shortage
The shortage of personnel protective equipment (PPE) and other vital farm tools is also a significant issue confronting agriculture business owners such as farmers. As a result of the healthcare industry’s high demand for N-95 masks, PPEs are currently in limited supply in many places. Sub-optimal harvest conditions may demand farmers to wear protective gear when harvesting dusty grains. In dairy operations, the unavailability of protective gloves which are essential for protecting farmers and improving the quality of milk could also create many inconveniences to agricultural businesses.
The coronavirus pandemic may also disrupt the availability of critical agricultural inputs for farmers. Lockdown has made it much more difficult for farmers to source farm inputs from some regions. In China, pesticide production was drastically reduced due to a temporary shutdown following the outbreak of the virus. The low availability of farm inputs and high pesticide prices could affect crop yield in developing countries in 2021. Movement restrictions also hinder the seed supply chain, making matters even worse for farmers.
All in all, the Covid-19 is indeed a disaster to agricultural businesses.