With the outbreak COVID-19 globally, the pandemic has hit hard the health, livelihoods and food supply chain. Agriculture supply is under big threat. In view of prolonged lockdown enforced to contain the virus, safety net policy and programme responses are urgently required for majority of Nepalis who depend on precarious agriculture for their livelihoods.
World Bank predicts that South Asian nations, including Nepal, will see a sharp economic slump owing to the cessation of economic activities, collapsing trade, and greater stress on the financial and banking sectors. The report mentions regional growth will fall between 1.8 and 2.8 per cent in 2020, from 6.3 per cent projected six months ago. This deteriorated forecast will linger in 2021 with growth projected to hover between 3.1 and 4.0 per cent, down from the previous 6.7 per cent estimate.
As per the report, Nepal’s economic growth is expected to fall between a range of 1.5 and 2.8 per cent in the fiscal year 2020, with declining remittances, trade and tourism, and broader disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. A prolonged outbreak of COVID-19 would impact growth significantly with a further deceleration or contraction in services and industrial production. Economic growth during the fiscal year 2021 is also likely to remain subdued due to the lingering effects of the pandemic with some recovery expected in 2022.
COVID-19 is disrupting major activities in agriculture and supply chains. This is primarily due to the unavailability of labour which is consequential to all activities in dairy, crops (rice and maize), livestock and chicken, and pig farming. There are disruptions in supply chains. Transportation is in all types of farms, including poultry, offseason vegetables, fruits, livestock, and dairy. Media reports show that the closure of hotels, restaurants, sweet shops, and tea shops during the lockdown is already depressing the sale of vegetables and dairy products. In order to keep the agricultural sector and supply chains working smoothly, an array of measures need to be implemented. Some are as follows.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for Nepal. The country’s large population and the economy’s dependence on migrant revenue, and subsistence agriculture have been greatly disrupted by the nationwide lockdown and social distancing measures. The government has already recognised the challenges and responded to them aggressively to provide relief packages for a week. But this response is just the beginning. It is urgent to scale up, easing the economic impacts through even greater public programme support mainly to agriculture and food security that keep markets functioning and protect the people from looming hunger.