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Impacts of COVID-19 on crop and livestock production

  • Special Report
  • Global
  • August 21, 2020
Impacts of COVID-19 on crop and livestock production

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    What are the pathways through which COVID-19 affects crop and livestock production?

    COVID-19 is expected to directly reduce some households’ capacity to engage in agricultural activities, as households with an infected or quarantined member will likely have a reduced pool of labor available to work and may need to prioritize purchasing health-related goods and services over buying inputs. In these cases, lower crop and livestock production is expected at the household level. However, based on available evidence, these idiosyncratic shocks are not anticipated to result in widespread losses. It is expected the indirect impacts of COVID-19, specifically the measures to curb its spread and the resultant global economic downturn, pose a wider, geographically covariant shock. These indirect impacts of COVID-19 on crop and livestock production at the country level are summarized below.

    Restrictions to movement and gatherings have the potential to negatively affect crop production[1]. The pathways through which this could occur include border closures and other trade disruptions that slow the flow of agricultural inputs, negatively affecting market supply and putting upward pressure on input prices. Households that typically access inputs that originate in neighboring countries may also face physical access constraints due to border closures. Movement restrictions also potentially disrupt the capacity to hire agricultural laborers, which could result in lower levels of planting and/or lower capacity to harvest. Restrictions to movement and slower trade flows also undermine farmers’ capacity to sell harvested crops, which in turn could lead to higher post-harvest losses and disincentivize future planting. Similarly, lower income/remittances from other sources including casual labor, may disincentivize and/or lower the capacity to plant in subsequent seasons.

    COVID-19 related restrictions also have the potential to negatively affect livestock production. The pathways through which this could occur include domestic and cross-border movement restrictions that limit livestock grazing, as the concentration of livestock could lead to atypical depletion of pasture and water. Border closures and trade disruptions also might lead to lower supplies and/or higher prices of livestock drugs. The closure of livestock markets and/or reduced livestock demand (due to factors such as the cancelation of the Hajj) are likely to lower income earned among some pastoralists, which could in turn lower capacity to invest in livestock health and purchase fodder/water (where relevant). Lower income from other sources, including remittances, could also lower investment in livestock health, negatively affecting production.

    What is the scale of impact expected?

    The scale of the indirect impacts of COVID-19 on crop and livestock production varies by region, based on the timing of livestock movements and the cropping cycle relative to the timing of restrictions, the stringency of the restrictions, and the degree to which countries with the region rely on other countries for labor, inputs, and/or the sale of crops/livestock (and the extent and timing of the restrictions in these source countries).

    Broadly speaking, the indirect impacts of COVID-19 on national crop production have been minimal in many countries, given limited effects of domestic movement restrictions on cropping labor. Exceptions to this include Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, DRC, Mauritania, Nigeria, Guatemala and Haiti, where the impact is assessed to be moderate, due to localized restrictions that are impacting agricultural labor movement and overall lower income among many households, including better-off households, which is negatively affecting the capacity to invest in crop production. Impacts are not anticipated to be significant in any countries assessed, though localized significant impacts are possible among some farmers. While COVID-19 is not driving widespread impacts on crop production, it is worth nothing that movement restrictions have had a relatively greater negative impact in reducing income among some agricultural migrant laborers.   

    The indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on livestock production have been minimal at the country-level across most countries that FEWS NET covers, as there are few restrictions in place limiting access to grazing lands. Some impacts are expected at the household level, though, as lower income from fewer livestock sales (and/or lower income from other incomes sources, including remittances and casual labor) may negatively affect households’ financial capacity to care for livestock through the purchase of fodder, herding labor, and livestock drugs. The impact of COVID-19 on livestock production is anticipated to be somewhat greater in the following geographies: Somalia and Zimbabwe, as lower income is more notably impacting the capacity to invest in livestock; Mauritania, where border restrictions are limiting grazing activities; and parts of Central America, where lower demand for milk products is disincentivizing production. Impacts are not anticipated to be significant in any countries assessed.

    For a more detailed description, by region, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report. 



    Occasionally, FEWS NET will publish a Special Report that serves to provide an in-depth analysis of food security issues of particular concern that are not covered in FEWS NET’s regular monthly reporting. These reports may focus on a specific factor driving food security outcomes anywhere in the world during a specified period of time. For example, in 2019, FEWS NET produced a Special Report on widespread flooding in East Africa and its associated impacts on regional food security.

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