Originally published in bigd.bracu.ac.bd on 10 June 2020
Social distancing and lockdown measures to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is having a negative impact on the agriculture sector of Bangladesh. This study will focus on these impacts, and suggest policy recommendations to protect this sector to minimise the blow from the pandemic.
Lockdown strategies entail a number of protective measures to flatten the curve against COVID-19 infection, which include border closures, travel restrictions, restaurant closures, and trade disruptions. Consequently this is leaving a significant impact on the agriculture sector, which is already reeling from the deep cut in the price of produce because of low demand and simultaneous increase in the cost of transporting the produce. Historically, quarantines and panic leads to a spike in hunger and malnutrition, as evidenced during the Ebola Virus outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014.
An article in the Financial Express, discusses how blockages to transport routes, transport restrictions and quarantine measures, shortages of labour, and spikes in product’s prices are obstructive for fresh food supply chains and might also result in increased levels of food loss and waste. These would consequently reduce the productive capacities of farmers, hindering them from selling their produce. The COVID-19 crisis will also reduce food demand as a result of declining incomes and lower frequency of visiting markets due to social distancing measures. The negative impact is already visible – the Daily Star reports that in Rangamati, despite bumper production of fruits, growers are incurring losses as the price has fallen drastically in the local markets of the district due to the outbreak.
The Bangladesh government has emphasized on the importance of the agriculture sector during these times of crisis, with PM Sheikh Hasina directing the Ministry of Agriculture to facilitate farmers and to provide them all necessary materials to ensure that agricultural production does not suffer.
BIGD will start a rapid research study on the extent and nature of the negative impact on the farmers, and suggest possible policy recommendations for safeguarding the sector, which is a crucial sector for our food security, employment generation, and poverty reduction.
While this research is at a formative stage, we plan to interview 3,000 farmers in two rounds. In the first round, the questionnaire would be 15-20 minutes long, and in the second round, it would be slightly longer, about half an hour.
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