Food security in the age of Covid 19

An ABIQ webinar

Partnerships between major international companies and African farmers are the way forward to ensure food security across the continent, during and beyond the Covid 19 pandemic, a webinar hosted by ABIQ heard.

Emerging market development specialist Hylton Banks, of Kellogg’s, said his company, and others such as Unilever and Nestle, can engage with traditional agriculture to promote best practices and provide access to new technologies.

Such methods can ensure a supply chain “from food to fork” he said, with keys being a continuality of local supply for raw ingredients, which will also cut carbon footprints.

Dr Ikechi Agbugba, of the African Trade Action Group, said COVID-19 had had a negative aspect on food production.

He identified major issues going forward as increasing production and absorbing a growing labour force, promoting diversification and high-quality healthy food, developing an efficient value chain, increasing the resilience of systems to changing circumstances, and developing regional markets.

“Stimulating development in new agritech businesses may help to alleviate food shortages,” he said.

Economist Hugue Nkoutchou pointed out the US$1tn demand for food across Africa offered a massive market but added factors such as conflict, climate, and insects inhibited development while 1/4 billion Africans – one in five of the population of the continent – were undernourished. Access to funding for farmers and products such as fertilisers also needed to be improved, he added.

“Displaced persons include many smallholders, while high taxes, corruption and shortage of electricity are other inhibiting factors,” he concluded.

Nicolatta…said a change from subsistence to commercial farming was a key in developing Africa’s agriculture, calling for “thinking outside the box and stepping out of comfort zones, equipping and training farmers and stimulating minds to go commercial”.

She said partnerships needed to be established between agriculture graduates, who may be strong on theory but weak on practical issues, with those already working in the sector whose skill set was reversed.

“Exposure to agriculture is the key to get young people interested,” she added.

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