The COVID-19 restrictions which countries effected caused disruptions to local staple markets consequently affecting the cost of food consumed by the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population in Southern Africa.
Information from more than 20 maize grain markets throughout Malawi showed a sudden price decrease from March to May 2020, the time the country registered its first cases of the virus.
For grain markets, 100 percent had increasing prices by January 2020, but by May 2020, there was a general price decline in all grain markets across the country’s rural and urban markets.
This was revealed during a semi-virtual country learning event on the effects of the pandemic on production, markets, trade, nutrition and poverty in Southern African countries, with a focus on Malawi.
The event was organized by AKADEMIYA 2063 and the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support Systems for Southern Africa (ReSAKSS), in collaboration with the National Planning Commission of Malawi (NPC) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
It was chaired by Dr. Rodwell Mzonde, Director of Planning at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi, and brought forward new evidence to inform decision making on COVID-19 responses by the Malawi government, and other respective stakeholders.
ReSAKSS Southern Africa Coordinator, Dr. Greenwell Matchaya, reaffirmed the importance of the event to the promotion of many of the key objectives in Malawi’s development agenda (Malawi Vision 2063), Southern Africa Development Community’s Regional Agricultural Development Policy and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
“As macroeconomic modeling confirms and predicts global disruptions on commodity markets due to COVID-19, it has led to a slowdown in economic growth and a deterioration in urban and rural poverty,” observed Matchaya.
Executive Chairperson of AKADEMIYA 2063 Dr. Ousmane Badiane urged countries to adopt better approaches in handling similar shocks in future to help in the attainment of development goals.
“Unless countries have a better handle at managing crises such as Covid and similar shocks in the future, it will be hard to achieve the development objectives related to the sustainable agricultural production and food security, improvement of regional integration and international trade as well as those seeking to reduce vulnerability especially of poor sections of society,” said the organization’s Executive Chairperson.
Many Southern African countries including Malawi had put measures including states of emergency, curfews and closed bordering in place to control the spread of the virus which in most cases were progressively lifted.
The participants also noted that travel restrictions and constraints to the movement of goods, caused logistics breakdowns and labor shortages at different stages along food value chains.
The resulting changes have had significant effects on the supply of and demand for agricultural and food products.