How COVID-19 changed agricultural policy

Source: Famer’s Weekly, 10 October 2021, photo credit:

As governments implemented containment measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in early 2020, they also introduced ways of limiting the effects of the virus and related lockdowns on agricultural supply chains. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tracked these initiatives, including the South African government’s response.

Most government responses to the pandemic in their agriculture sectors were introduced in the first few months of 2020. As the year went by and new waves of the virus spread, governments in many countries shifted their attention to medium[1]term issues by bolstering early relief measures and introducing economic recovery packages.

Their actions differed in timing and scope, from the initial imposition of lockdown measures to policies aimed at tempering the effects of the crisis on specific supply chains or consumers in the medium term.

Interestingly, several steps to facilitate the functioning of production and supply chains could have been taken before the onset of the pandemic. In its report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) divides the measures instituted by governments into three groups:

• Urgent measures to ensure supply
These steps were taken at the start of the crisis to keep the agriculture industry functioning. Examples included declaring agriculture and food production an essential sector; measures to ensure the functioning of government agencies; the coordination of responses within the private sector; and national and international logistic and transport initiatives to ensure the continuation of trade. These actions are intrinsically linked to the pandemic, and will not be relevant once the crisis has ended.

• No-regrets measures
These improved market functioning measures contributed to greater resilience, but they could have been taken beforehand and should be maintained or even scaled up after the pandemic. Included here are actions supporting digital innovations that facilitate e-commerce; the exchange of information; agriculture job-matching information centres; and training or trade facilitation measures.
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The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.