ACP REGIONAL AND LOCAL MARKETS

Africa

In Cameroon, stakeholders in the pineapple sector taking part in a RHORTICAM/COLEACP workshop spoke about their experiences in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been border closures and passenger flight stoppages, and a drastic reduction of available space for pineapples, down from around 64 tonnes per day (6-7 days a week) to 8 tonnes per day (3–5 days a week). Costs are raised by the “Covid tax” (€0.19/kg) – carriers charge a higher return freight due to the difficulty of finding goods on the way down (north-south) – but the EU purchase price has not increased much. Voluntary containment is having an impact on production because of the impact on the available workforce day to day. Ethiopian offered to transport but their freight prices are very high. Non-exported pineapples are flooding the local market as there is no real processing industry yet (and almost no profitability). The Projet de Développement des Chaînes de Valeurs Agricoles (Agricultural Value Chain Development Project, PDCVA) is exploring developing processing units.

An agricultural producer and exporter in Senegal reports that inter-regional travel has been banned in the country, and customers from Dakar who used to buy their products directly from the farm can no longer go there. Demand is falling sharply following the closure of certain markets. The kg of peppers that used to sell for 800 to 1000 FCFA are now selling for 200 FCFA. The DATS are trying to maintain their activity in spite of this. Their main objective is to maintain jobs. If jobs cannot be secured, the staff is put out of work. The company is doing its best not to lay off its employees, and will rely heavily on the 2 billion FCFA aid promised by the government for companies that have secured jobs for their employees.

The mango campaign in Côte d’Ivoire, which opened two weeks ago, is starting alarmingly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, like other producing countries in the region (CommodAfrica). Operators are registering suspensions and cancellations of export contracts to European countries, and one estimate of losses for the 2020 campaign due to COVID-19 is as high as 65%. However, a COLEACP member reports that the government has put in place measures to help companies according to the losses they might incur.

According to the testimony of one of our members in Madagascar, the production structures that continue to produce and export, particularly by sea, have been authorised to continue their activities as long as the hygiene barrier measures are strictly applied in order to protect the personnel.

A COLEACP member in Togo reports that strict barrier measures have been imposed, including a ban until further notice on events involving more than 15 people, a distance of at least 1 m between individuals, the wearing of masks, etc. Activities on the ground are much slower than in ordinary times, groups of workers have to be limited; physical contact has to be avoided; and permits are required before moving from one town to another, as some towns are isolated because of the seriousness or risk of the health situation there.

In Guinea, the border with Liberia is closed and avocado producers in Lola Prefecture will have to market their produce on the local market. But local consumption is very low, and it is difficult to keep the avocados. Liberian buyers regularly buy three to four trucks of avocados.

The Ugandan Fruit and Vegetables Exporters and Producers Association (UFVEPA) says that the lockdown has been extended by 21 days until 5 May. However, the good news is that exports of fruits and vegetables have not stopped despite several challenges. The internal logistics for farms in the different export villages and packhouses where fresh produce is sorted, cleaned and packed have been challenging, coupled with ensuring that workers are safe and are not exposed to the virus. Many airlines have had to stop because of the closure of the airport, only cargo flights are allowed, and their rates are very high.

A Malian exporter reports that their export orders for mango are confirmed, and there are no transport blockages for the moment. On the Senegal side it is a little more complicated given the traffic constraints. Currently maintaining a programme by road for 1 to 2 trucks per week, however the drop in traffic with Morocco may affect the availability of trucks. Concerning vegetables, the programme is continuing as planned, but the company is also planning to diversify for the post-winter season, and has recruited a person in charge to follow up this activity. 

Zimbabwe’s national trade development and promotion organisation, ZimTrade, reports that the impact on global trade is having negative ramifications on the country’s trade performance. Both imports and exports have been affected, with the imports affecting the production side of value chains. Freight and cargo movements are also not spared as some cargo planes have also grounded their operations. ZimTrade’s scheduled training for organic certification and other capacity-building training have been affected. Interface with clients and promotional events are also being affected.

Regional markets – a potential “soft landing” for exporters

As the coronavirus pandemic develops, restrictions on movement of people and cargo are making it difficult for local exporters, particularly small businesses, to continue supplying products and services outside their country. The pandemic has disrupted international trade in terms of volumes and commodity prices, and will result in significant negative impacts on SMEs.
However, as Allan Majuru points out in Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail (19 April), Africa’s regional markets may be easier to access and can cushion local companies. Most countries in the region have remained open to trade, although with an emphasis on strategic products.
The Sunday Mail looks at the strategic markets that should be relatively easy for Zimbabwean companies to supply: Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

For Zambia, food supplies into the retail sector are being given priority at border entry points (along with essential health supplies), as the absence of South African products due to South Africa’s lockdown has created a gap.

The retail sector in Botswana is largely dominated by South African brands and the lockdown in South Africa will also impact supplies. However, Botswana has introduced restrictions on movement of travel and people to suppress the spread of the virus, and imposed restrictions on passage of raw materials. Importing companies in Botswana are required to consult the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre to understand the raw materials they can import. In the medium term, Botswana is looking to upscale its horticultural production, promote market centres for agricultural produce, and enable its National Agro-Processing Plant to absorb all excess production of vegetables. These activities will open opportunities for Zimbabwean players in the agriculture supply chain, particularly suppliers of seeds.

Namibia also offers a strategic regional market that local producers are yet to fully exploit. The good relations between Harare and Windhoek have made it easy to trade, and local businesses can take advantage of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Trade Agreement and the Zimbabwe–Namibia Preferential Trade Agreement, which offers preferential treatment of qualifying products to increase exports to the country. With regard to COVID-19, movement of people in Namibia is restricted as the country is currently under lockdown. Currently, the market is slow as most institutions are closed, which has seen demand for several products and services go down. However, the fast-moving consumer goods sector is one area that local businesses could target once the lockdown has ended. Currently, Namibia’s Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency is not importing, but is looking at the fruit and fresh produce price lists for post COVID-19 considerations.
See the full report here.

Caribbean

ECTAD Caribbean (Eastern Caribbean Trading Agriculture and Development Organisation) points out that, as if COVID-19 is not enough, over the past 8 weeks most of the Caribbean has been going through a drought that is affecting production. Added to this is the fear that some businesses may close operations or be very slow in payments. It is likely that the full impact of the global pandemic has yet to hit the Caribbean. The uncertainty of distribution channels has left farmers without an income and customers without access to products. ECTAD is prioritising safety and protection - with the average age of our farmers being 50+. Support will be needed for safety and protective gear for farmers; and for supplies of planting materials, seeds, fertilisers, organic manure, tools and equipment, marketing equipment and materials. ECTAD is also looking at marketing buffer fund support to help with payments to farmers, especially for the overseas markets which take many weeks for payment. Despite the challenges, and following safety measures and with the help of partners and supporters, ECTAD is planning to restart its small farmers marketing programme within a few weeks, targeting local, regional and exports overseas.