More than 10 years after the food crisis of 2007-2008, the current pandemic and its potential impact on food security and nutrition ask the same questions, with watermark a few ideas that it is useful to deconstruct new in this 15 June, world day against hunger : the food systems will they be broken ? The crisis will deprive Africa of rice ? Is this the proof that it is necessary to relocate the production to secure the supply or is this a false good idea ?
In the midst of a crisis of the Covid-19, food at an affordable price is not missing, as says the chief economist of the Organization for food and agriculture (FAO).
in addition, the errors that had exacerbated the food crisis in 2008 have not been reproduced : many governments have put in place cash transfers to support the poorest and restrictions on exports remain very limited compared to those that prevailed in 2008.
Supply of food available, international trade maintained, a request supported by the governments... is there any risk of food and nutrition insecurity in Africa in these disturbed times by the pandemic ? Of course, not.
But, beyond the increase of poverty, the risks lie mainly in the defects of the food supply and in a potential mismatch of national public policies to address them. Our analysis allows us to present five tracks to address the misconceptions and to ensure a better quality of exchanges within the continent.
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The huge risks persist
The research post-2008 have reaffirmed that food crises are not always related to falling production, but also to the poverty of consumers, or trade barriers.
The work of maps allow to identify the countries and areas of the continent are currently the most at risk of food insecurity (Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mauritania, etc ).
Mapping of food insecurity. © Fews.net/
today, it is primarily the lack of money to buy the food that makes the situation of 820 million undernourished people in the world.
thousands of people have lost their jobs as a result of measures to limit the spread of the virus. Whether in the formal or the informal sector, the seller of bananas at retail in the major exporters of roses and tea in kenya, economic losses and jobs are huge.
The urban consumers, already particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, are severely affected, without power, for the most part, into exile in the countryside and find a plot of farming. The monetary transfers of the States will not suffice, and those sent by the diaspora are strongly affected by the crisis.
following a directive from the president of uganda to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the vendors have been forced to sleep on the market with their stocks. (Kampala, 7 April). © BADRU KATUMBA / AFP
What is missing then, it is the logistics infrastructure to transport food from the port, or of the field, up to the consumers : the circuits of international trade are not broken, but the channels of supply and distribution domestic and intra-african, are much less robust, and resilient (Sudan, Angola, democratic Republic of the Congo...).
This vulnerability is known since a long time, but the crisis amplified the problems at the border and the transit time once on the corridors intra-africa.
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According to the world Bank, the food remains today the highest expenditure of african households. Improving access is therefore crucial for the food security and health care, but also for the fight against poverty.
However, without the possibility to trade smoothly, there will be no access to markets for producers, no economies of agglomeration or economies of scale, not of diversification of activities in the sector or competitiveness of the economies and in african cities.
We are now seeing : it is in part due to the difficulty of movement of the carriers and traders, curfews, and congestion at the border and prohibited from travel as the economic opportunities and the jobs disappear.
The current crisis throws a harsh light on the need to improve supply chains. At the continental level, it is the case of the free trade area african, scheduled for 1st January 2021. But, at national level, it is the business of governments and cities.
this domain has been largely neglected in recent decades. The collective book edited by the French development Agency and the world Bank, which is based on analytical work of the Toulouse School of Economics, and field analyses carried out by the Centre for international cooperation in agronomic research for development (Cirad), offers five tracks to address them.
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Act without destabilizing
First, it becomes crucial to understand the factors that motivate producers to serve such a market and consumers to go to such and such a point-of-sale. These factors are central to understand the forces of attraction (centripetal) or dispersal (centrifugal) exerted by the city on the areas of agricultural production. In the opposite case, public policies may have an effect opposite to the desired one.
let's Take the example of an improvement of the conditions of consumers ' access to a market by subsidizing public transport. This could increase the price in this market if the influx of consumers is not followed by an increase in supply.
Another example : investment in the reduction of the perishability of the products (cold chain, factories of primary processing of products) could scare away consumers if this leads to a price increase that they are not willing to bear.
Get away from the cities, or closer to it ? Forces at work in agricultural production. © The authors
Secondly, it is necessary to identify the losses in competitiveness of products on the whole chain : beyond the production process, producers are able to pool their crops in order to benefit from economies of scale in the transport ? Can we promote food processing to reduce these post-harvest losses ? Is it better to improve the storage conditions and the cold chain ? It also depends on the preferences of the consumers.
Third, the infrastructure light as the access to information and confidence in the contract of sale, credit quality remain paramount.
Without a specific diagnosis, public policies may destabilize the systems of interpersonal trust, distribution networks, family, or the management of credit between suppliers and buyers. For example, the quality attributed to a product by consumers is often based on the reputation of the sellers. Put in place labels, quality should take into account these patterns.
Fourth, the policy intervention is often hampered by the diversity of actors involved in the food sector, with terms to be blurry and of limited means. Taking them into account is essential under penalty of failure of attempts of regulation, and improving governance.
Finally, and perhaps should he start there, he came to the fight against certain received ideas about the power of african cities. In effect, a fragmented vision of the agri-food sector involves public policies that are concentrated either upstream or downstream.
now, only a consideration of the supply chain in its totality and its complexity will allow for the deployment of projects and public policies more "systemic" to solve the food issues in the cities of Africa.p>
* Gaëlle Balineau is a development economist within the French development Agency (AFD).
** Nicole Madariaga is a development economist within the French development Agency (AFD).