On 17 April The Food Bridge hosted an online discussion via Zoom on the impact of COVID-19 on African diaspora agrofood entrepreneurs. For African diaspora agrofood entrepreneurs, the impact of the crisis is stronger because most of the projects are self-financed. Many entrepreneurs are still paying staff even when they have no income from their agrofood projects. For these entrepreneurs, it is not just about business, but about supporting their communities. Some also have loans and grants that they are paying back, but with no sales, this brings an added challenge.
African diaspora entrepreneurs are also anticipating more challenges post COVID-19 because they do not envisage support from European or African governments, or access to any subsidies. Access to markets for African diaspora agrofood entrepreneurs, and also the small holder farmers they support, is also jeopardised, leaving them with unsold produce. There is a need for green energy to enable entrepreneurs to preserve their produce.
The Food Bridge is working on an online platform for African diaspora agrofood entrepreneurs, enabling contacts and a means of having a united voice on relevant issues affecting the sector.
The Food Bridge will follow up with online seminars and workshops every month, including a collaboration with COLEACP.
Since 13 April, several European countries have announced that they are preparing to ease their lockdown restrictions in the coming days. Spain and Italy have restarted some industries, and Germany is considering opening schools; its shops and restaurants are allowed to re-open if social distancing measures are observed (FPC). In France, the lockdown restrictions have been extended up to 11 May. Several other European countries, including Austria, Denmark and the Czech Republic, are also set to loosen their lockdowns.
According to a study by French consumers’ group UFC-Que Choisir, fruit and vegetable prices rose 9% between the weeks 2–9 March and 6–11 April. The increase is as high as 12% for organic products.
The consumption of organic products has been rising sharply since mid-March 2020. Purchases from traditional specialist retailers are increasing due to their good territorial coverage and consumers’ choice of local outlets. Sales of organic fruit and vegetables are growing because consumers want healthy products (Fructidor). MODEF (Mouvement pour la Défense de L’Exploitation Familial; Movement for Family Farmers) says that 55% of fruit and vegetable needs are currently produced in France (Médiafel). It adds that a shortage of many products, particularly fruit and vegetables, is already noticeable after five weeks of confinement.
Exports of off-season French melons from Guadeloupe and Martinique are being heavily impacted by the Government’s decision to limit passenger flights to combat the virus. The production and marketing period to the European market normally runs from late January to May, with a peak in April/early May. Expected volumes were about 3,250 tonnes.
According to a study by AssoBio in collaboration with Nielsen (Fructidor), sales of fresh fruit and vegetables have increased by just over 18% compared to March 2019. Organic fruit and vegetables show a growth of nearly 25% – containment has favoured this development as consumers are more careful with their diet.