July 28, 2020
Dr. Miyuki Iiyama, Director, Research Strategy Office, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences
Mr. Hiroyuki Fukatsu, Executive Vice President / Executive Officer, Business Strategy Division, E-supporlink,Ltd.
Mr. Yasuo Masuda, Visiting Professor, Tokyo Fuji University
Mr. Koji Makino, Director General, Economic Development Department, JICA
It is an urgent challenge to support developing countries in their efforts to combat the outbreak of COVID-19, by understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the agricultural and food sectors in these countries.
Securing nutrition, food safety and employment are essential to ensure human security in the era of COVID-19. However, even the specialized agencies of the international organizations are still investigating the impact of COVID-19, and its real impact is not yet fully assessed. In this Forum, JICA has presented not only the published data, but also the reality on the ground by sharing the primary information collected from the governments and farmers by the JICA oversea offices.
Based on the JICA's presentation, panelists from the private sector and a research institute, together with the audience, exchanged their views on the impact of COVID-19 on the agricultural and food sectors in developing countries, and discussed the future prospects of Japan's supports in the era of COVID-19.
The Forum confirmed the importance of medium-and-long term efforts in strengthening the food security, including ensuring quality, quantity and safety of food. It was also confirmed that the continuous and cross-cutting linkages among producers, distributors, processors, retailers, and consumers involved in the supply chains need to be strengthened to address challenges caused by COVID-19.
Even under the COVID-19 situation, availability of food is considered to be adequate and the international food prices remains low. However, JICA has also observed cases where distribution of agricultural products was stagnated and food prices went up due to COVID-19, especially in the countries with limited logistic infrastructure. JICA will continue to focus on the vulnerable groups affected by these impacts. In addition to the emergency assistance such as providing seeds and fertilizers, JICA will also promote medium-and-long term assistance to rebuild resilient supply chain through collaborating with private sector, utilizing their technology.
According to JICA Viet Nam Office, the government's awareness on risk management for agricultural and food sectors has increased, which led to the diversification of export destinations and promotion of food processing industry. Some farmer cooperatives have shifted their production and sales to the agricultural products which could be preserved longer. While some farmer cooperatives lost market due to shrinking demands, there are cooperatives which have increased their sales by producing agricultural products for import substitution. JICA will develop strategies for future support, bearing in mind of these various examples.
JICA Madagascar has been strengthening the communication through a radio program to educate the public on the importance of having healthy diets that could strengthen immune system. The radio program provided information on how people could make existing dishes more nutritious by using easily accessible ingredients, to make it widely accepted by the people in Madagascar.
At the beginning of the panel discussion, Mr. Makino highlighted importance of supporting agricultural and food systems during the outbreak of infectious diseases, based on his own experience in Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Then, each panelist presented the proposals for Japan's support in the agricultural and food sectors in response to COVID-19.
Dr. Iiyama underlined the high potential of smart agriculture to increase the agricultural productivity (in Sub-Saharan Africa). Dr. Iiyama also emphasized that in order to maximize the potential of smart agriculture, it is important have policies which could promote the breeding and cultivation systems that is suitable for each region and simultaneously develop facilities and information infrastructure.
Mr. Fukatsu pointed out that the quality control at post-harvest, expertise in sub-divisional delivery, and the development of payment system are the areas where Japan could contribute to strengthen supply chains in developing countries. He suggested that rural distribution system should be strengthened in response to the changing business practices and distribution patterns caused by COVID-19.
Mr. Masuda emphasized the social responsibility of the retail business to provide consumers with a stable supply of food with reasonable price. He also proposed to support the development of supply chains which guarantee food safety.
Based on the discussions by three panelists, the Forum confirmed that the responses to the COVID-19 should include the following elements:
(1) Strengthening of data collection;
(2) Turning the crisis into business opportunities through utilizing ICT and other technologies; and
(3) Supporting food security in developing countries through improving agricultural productivity and promoting value-addition.