COVID-19 causes aggro in agriculture

George Boatfield gives us the insight on what is happening to the agriculture industry during this pandemic

George Boatfield
29th March 2020
Image: Elaine Casap (unsplash)
It’s safe to say that the recent impacts of coronavirus have been heavily documented. In a study by Carbon Brief, one such repercussion is that in China - the source of the disease and the world’s largest carbon emitter - there has been a sharp 25% reduction in carbon dioxide thanks to the actions taken by authorities.Another is in the form of knock-on effects to air traffic, with Jet2 recently turning planes around in mid-air as the airline cancelled all flights to mainland Spain, Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands because of coronavirus.

However, the impacts on the agriculture industry have fallen to the sidelines somewhat. Of course, emissions and output are key factors, but another area overlooked in recent weeks is how the supply chain has been affected right the way through. Besides the environmental impact thanks to shipping and the processing of food, a worldwide virus affects all areas of food production.

With the general public suddenly obsessed with the oh-so precious paper of the toilet, you wouldn’t think that fresh produce had been affected all that much. However, as regions like Italy and Spain continue to suffer through the spread of the virus, this could change in the coming weeks.

That’s the problem with a global supply chain: when a single shopping basket can contain food that’s sourced from numerous countries, product range can quickly diminish when there’s a blip. Thankfully UK agriculture is keeping up with demand for now, but as the government implements more stringent tactics to delay the spread of the virus, perhaps the situation could decline in the coming weeks. Now, the biggest challenge to fresh produce staying on shop shelves may well be labour shortages rather than excessive demand.

One area of food products that has been affected is that of the long-life variety: pasta seems to be running low on the shelves, while tinned products, couscous and UHT milk are also in short supply. With that said, the biggest impact of people bulk buying these products for themselves is that the focus is taken away from giving these items to food banks. As institutions that often rely on long-life products, the recent buying habits of the public have meant that many food banks are now struggling and pleading with the public to reconsider what they are actually buying all this stuff for.

Despite all this, Easter eggs are unlikely to be affected, having been present on shop shelves for months. So I suppose, as food stockpiles continue to dwindle, a huge mound of chocolate will always be there to fall back on before the big day. We shouldn’t let it get to this point: now really is the time for us all to give a little more to the food banks. And with that, in this uncertain time, despite what we are all seeing in the world currently, I hope you all have a wonderful, chocolatey break.

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