Mzansi Agriculture Talk

Covid-19 Watch

SADC youth agri hardships under COVID-19

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, a survey report found that youth agripreneurs in the SADC region were most vulnerable to market forces.

This was according to a survey conducted by the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Union (SACAU) on 15 youth agripreneurs, which among others found that youth agripreneurs had limited access to resources and opportunities under covid-19 restrictions.

“The aim of the enquiry was to assess how the pandemic has impacted businesses operated by the youth. This was premised on the understanding that young agripreneurs are more vulnerable to emergency shocks such as the COVID-19 than their more seasoned counterparts, due to the fragility of their new and young enterprises” said SACAU.

According to SACAU, the survey found 4 main challenges commonly encountered by the youth agripreneurs in the region; reduced demand for agricultural products, disruption of supply chains, reduced supply of factors of production and services, and increased cases of theft of products.

Gift Mafuleka (South Africa) and Eric Mgabe (Tanzania) both held similar viewpoints that since the outbreak of the pandemic, low demand of agricultural products had festered forcing farmers to sell produce at lower prices.

“Closure of restaurants and hotels, resulted in a reduced demand for food products in the country and this had a negative impact on my business” said Mafuleka from South Africa.

Mgabe from Tanzania on the other hand, said that due to the low demand of sunflower cake and maize in the country, prices had fluctuated, and “this forced us to sell products at lower prices than usual.”

SACAU was also concerned that the restrictive measures imposed by the regions governments mainly disrupted supply chains in the agriculture sector “from the sourcing of inputs, production, processing, and transportation of commodities.”

“Most countries in the region depended on South Africa for products such as poultry, fruits, vegetables and even meat products. The closure of borders due to COVID-19 had resulted in scarcity of food products in neighbouring countries” it said.

Livestock farmer from Namibia, Vesee Veii concurred that the closure of borders between South Africa and Namibia affected farmers who supplied weaners to the South African market.

“This resulted into reduced price of weaners due to low demand including experienced delays in the supply of parent stock” he said.

Maness Nkhata from Malawi was another youth agripreneur affected by the closures of borders. She said that relocating one of her processing plants to a suitable building was a challenge “as technicians who were supposed to undertake the task were from a foreign country and could not travel to Malawi.”

Joseph Sekgatsa from Botswana said the lack of ICT infrastructure in his country exposed the missed opportunities to provide food online. “If we had proper ICT infrastructures and platforms in place, we could have done online trading both locally and regionally than farmers produce going down to waste” he added.

But not all was lost. The pandemic opened opportunities for local markets to source produce from local farmers than to rely on imported goods from South Africa.

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