COVID-19 causes labour shortage, income loss for farmers – Caricom report on Guyana

The Agriculture Ministry joined forces with the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to conduct an assessment in terms of the current pandemic in measuring the impact and response to COVID-19 on Guyana’s food systems.
COVID-19 has raised concerns about food security for governments and development partners throughout the world. As such, throughout July and August, the assessment was conducted and presented in a final report with data obtained via an online survey.
The respondents varied from 167 agriculture extension officers, 741 farmers and fishers, 88 vendors and 116 food traders. Participants were drawn from all ten administrative regions of Guyana.
“The main areas of focus were on production activities and the livelihoods of farmers, fishers, vendors of agricultural inputs, and food traders to assess income or production losses; inputs, marketing and supply chain difficulties, and shifts in food consumption choices,” the Agriculture Ministry explained.
Key findings showed that a majority of the farmers and fisherfolks reported a reduction in overall income from May to July compared to the same period last year, while livestock farming respondents revealed production difficulties with access to feed, supply chain, and processing and retail, or market issues.
“Fisherfolk and extension officers informed of difficulties to market fish, decreased prices, and other concerns and restrictions related to COVID-19,” the statement said.
Stakeholders have also indicated a noticeable decline in employment of daily or seasonal agricultural labourers, the number of market traders operating on a regular basis, hiring of vehicles to transport agriculture produce and livestock, and daily market labour wage rate.
“These challenges to the food system regarding sales were mainly due to COVID-19 business restrictions, since producers and consumers were unable to access markets or shops. Some effects on food access were the closure of food shops, transport limitations, or lost wages. Overall, the reduction of income, access to markets, and other difficulties within the food system varied differently across the ten administrative regions.
Limited availability of certain foods was also widely reported, while in some instances there were changes in demand.”
Other woes highlighted shared that persons have consumed less quantities of nutritious foods because ‘there was not enough food or money to feed household members.’
The majority of farmers and fisher respondents have asked for some form of livelihood assistance, which can include cash assistance, seeds, fertilisers, animal feeds, and pesticides. All of these were also identified by the extension officers with the addition of marketing support.
“The impacts of COVID-19 unfolded on top of different shocks, such as heavy rains and floods, outbreak of pests and diseases, and dry spell/drought. This assessment also documented the systemic nature of disaster risk and establishes the need for building resilience of the agriculture sector against multiple hazards and risks — both familiar and unfamiliar,” the Ministry also outlined. (G12)