What's Next for Agriculture?
Updated: May 4, 2020
With 47% of the global population on lockdown, the government issued a public service announcement telling people it's essential to stop hoarding supplies and food. With empty shelves and the constant restocking of food in grocery stores, it’s understandable that consumers would believe the agricultural industry is doing well — but could farmers and food companies face long-term negative impacts from COVID-19? Spending patterns could slow down, and with major foodservice companies such as restaurants, schools, and universities all closing, the potential effects could be more damaging than expected.
How COVID-19 Could Impact the Food and Agriculture Sector:
Luckily, the CDC reports that there's no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transferred through food grown in the US or other countries. Even so, the novel coronavirus pandemic will likely negatively impact the health of agricultural workers (farmers in the US are an aging at-risk population and they face shortages of personal protective equipment), as well as cause a decline in overseas food shipments and create general labor shortages in food supply chains. These factors could threaten the livelihoods of farmers worldwide, as well as increase food prices in a time of economic depression when families are already struggling to stay afloat. Below is a snapshot of key takeaways from the "6 IMPACTS OF COVID-19 ON AGRICULTURE" article written by the Agritecture team.
1. Markets and Farm Prices
As we see growing levels of concern and increasing protective practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 — including recommendations for social distancing, reduced travel, avoiding crowds, and other closures — consumers will be making tough choices about food, eating away from home, and overall spending. Demand for certain sub-sectors, such as dairy, may decline or shift as more consumers cook from home. International shipping ports may become bottlenecks and cause trading delays.
2. Supply Shain Slowdowns and Shortages
As logistics are disrupted, and efforts proceed to slow the spread of the virus, multiple connected industry sectors are already being impacted. Farm produce delivery and pick up workers who are sick or sheltering in place could disrupt supply chains. With some products, "panic buying" is creating additional concern. Livestock medicine could become limited.
3. Farmers' Health.
Farmers are a relatively older population compared to the general worker population. The 2017 ag census shows the average age of farm operators to be at least a full 10 years older than workers in most other sectors. People over the age of 65 face increased risks from coronavirus.
4. The Farm Workforce
Even if the general population infection rate remains relatively low, we will likely see some workers who end up sick and others who need to stay home to care for children and elderly family members, which will likely lead to higher levels of absenteeism.
5. Worker safety and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
There are shortages of PPE and other protective equipment vital for operating a farm safely and keeping workers and animals healthy. “Farmworkers work, live, and travel in crowded conditions, and are being allowed few if any safety measures against COVID-19—which puts them and the food system at risk.” (Civil Eats)
6. Other Disruptions
While sparse populations and less frequent travel may provide a natural social distancing for rural communities, many rural residents face unique challenges such as unreliable high-speed internet and limited digital services.
Newday’s Sustainable Agriculture portfolio highlights companies focused on making meaningful changes in our food and agricultural system. We created this unique portfolio offering to acknowledge and invest in the ventures of hard-working farmers, and support much-needed innovation in the competitive low-margin farming industry. The effects of COVID-19 throws further uncertainty in the air, and we must recognize its potential impacts on farmers so we can prepare to rebuild our communities.