Since the first recorded case of COVID-19 in China in November 2019 and its spread to over 199 countries as of March 2020, it became very clear that a further outbreak of this pandemic to other countries would be disastrous. This is not just due to the potential loss of life but also to the greater risk to people’s livelihoods. COVID-19 has since ceased to be a national issue and has rapidly grown to be a global plague. The major effect of this is on both the supply and demand for food. Should the pandemic intensify and countries continue to close their borders in their quest to curb the spread of the disease, the global food supply chain will be affected.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ghana has escalated to 566 as of Tuesday, 11th April 2020: four have been treated, discharged and tested negative, 552 cases have been categorized as mild forms of the disease, two were regarded as moderate to severe cases and eight deaths have occurred. According to the Ghana Health Service (GHS), the regions in the country that have reported cases are Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central, Eastern, Western, Volta, Northern, North East, Upper East, and Upper West.
Given that Ghana is largely an import-driven economy, the persistence of COVID-19 is likely to have a substantial adverse effect on the country’s international trade and reserves. While it is obvious that the revenue the country would have made from export would cease until restrictions on border closure are halted, it is also glaringly obvious that Ghana should be ready for some declining economic growth and subsequently high unemployment if the COVID-19 situation persists longer than anticipated.
In light of current developments, the government of Ghana estimates a slump in projected GDP growth for 2020 at 2.6 per cent, which is significantly lower than the budgeted GDP growth of 6.8 per cent for the year. Also, additional borrowing and related expenses that will be incurred are likely to increase the country’s debt risk. The unplanned increase in expenditure, particularly in the health sector, could adversely impact the fiscal deficit. Government estimates that events unfolding as a result of COVID-19, even with some mitigating measures, will result in a deficit of 6.6 per cent of a revised GDP, which is higher than the de facto fiscal rule of five per cent established by the Fiscal Responsibility Law. (Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Economy of Ghana ‒ Summary of Fiscal Measures and Deloitte views).
In its attempt to curb the spread of the disease, the government of Ghana has imposed a number of measures, which include but are not limited to: banning all social gatherings; the closure of schools, colleges and universities; and the imposition of restrictions on peoples’ movements in a partial lockdown. Although necessary, should these impositions continue, they will adversely affect major sectors of the economy, especially the agricultural and agribusiness sector. Disruptions in transportation will occur, the supply chain in agriculture will be hampered and the demand for agricultural and agribusiness activities lowered. These disruptions will slow down growth in agriculture and agribusiness in the country. Also, should there be a total lockdown of the country, these disruptions are likely to limit farmers’ access to inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers and insecticides, and also restrict access to markets. In addition, uncertainty and fear could have a negative impact on planting decisions, while as mentioned earlier, a reduction in the volume of the main agricultural exports is also expected. A general shortage in food supply is anticipated if the pandemic intensifies and, in turn, this could lead to inflation in food prices, especially grains (such as rice, beans, millet, sorghum, etc.), poultry, vegetables and other commodities.
Currently, in response to the lockdown, there has been lots of panic buying among the Ghanaian people and this act could perhaps be linked to the sudden increase in food prices and hikes in food hoarding over the past few weeks.
AFAP has had a positive impact on the lives of farmers especially in the northern part of Ghana. Over the years, AFAP has been involved in a number of activities in Ghana, such as capacity building, market linkages, the provision of technical support, engagement with both public- and private agriculture entities and interaction with various stakeholders along the agricultural value chain. Through AGRA’s Smallholder Inclusive, Productivity and Market Access (SIPMA) project, AFAP has assisted farmers within the project-implementing regions with access to subsidized fertilizer and seeds (under the planting for food and jobs policy). It has also offered access to other farm inputs so as to increase yields and consequently improve the lives of smallholder farmers in Ghana. AFAP’s component of the project includes, but is not limited to, capacity building and training farmers and other selected community champions known as Community Based Advisors (CBAs). They offer training on fertilizer and seed handling, entrepreneurial skills, book- and record keeping and pesticide application. Following on from these aforementioned modules, monitoring visits have also been carried out and great results were recorded – with farmers and CBAs reporting improved yields, increased revenue and the overall wellbeing of those involved.
For the most part, AFAP has achieved these marvelous results through field activities that include: on-site training and coaching, on-site interactions and monitoring visits.
Nevertheless, AFAP has also adopted various technological means of accessing and engaging its partners and staff. Partners and beneficiaries who do not have access to technology (such as a telephone or computer) are engaged and reached through their selected representatives, the CBAs. All actions that necessitate face-to-face meetings have also been postponed until the lockdown is over.
Should this pandemic continue beyond what has been anticipated, smallholder farmers who constitute the majority of the agricultural sector and who also have little or no access to inputs or logistics to maneuver smoothly, especially during this pandemic, will be affected. As such, AFAP, just like all other organizations, is hoping to see the swift end of this global pandemic.