In March 2020, governments around the world implemented lockdown regulations to ensure the safety of their citizens. The whole world took a pause. As everyone hunkered down at home to avoid the virus, grocery and produce shelves were constantly emptied as some people felt panicked about the supply of everyday essentials. Restaurants, on the other hand, faced opposite struggles as their business had to be reduced to protect the safety of their employees. This drastic change in consumption and demand has created new challenges for farmers. Supply chains were also disrupted when farmers could not hire seasonal workers to harvest their crops while the demand continued. Lockdown regulations have also jeopardized the shipping and transport of food, and reduced employment opportunities have also made it difficult for people to access and afford their necessities.
Agriculture is a season-based industry. The needs of the farmer every week or month can differ significantly. During months of harvest, more human power is needed in farms and orchards, whether it be to do the job themselves or to operate machinery that is part of the process. There are many options out there to help farmers support their heavy workloads, which include artificial intelligence and automated harvesting robotics. Since the pandemic started, many farmers have suffered profit loss from labor-shortage-related issues due to restrictions related to the pandemic. People who work in the farming industry cannot tend to their work when lockdown regulations are in place because the safety and well-being of workers are essential. An example of this is how farmers do not necessarily have the choice to socially distance while working in fields. In an article from The New York Times, David Yaffe-Bellany and Michael Corkery highlighted that some farmers in the United States have chosen to leave their crop to rot or just plowed through it as harvesting would cost too much. Market anxiety and labour shortage in harvesting have further exacerbated the difficulty in farming as a business. According to Agricultural Systems, in Europe, the pandemic has affected the apple market as the price of insurance has increased, packaging is more labour intensive. Most farmers and producers have also implemented extra steps in sanitizing their products to ensure that it is safe for the customer to consume and that it won’t be wasted. There is a great shift in production and sales, transport, supply delays, and market demands. The price of processing food has become too high for some farmers. This is a worldwide issue that every farmer faces. The World Bank has forecasted that there might be a 5.2% contraction in global GDP due to the pandemic. Overall, this means that the cost of goods can increase for consumers while also having less money to spend due to economic constraints.
Almost all industries have suffered to a certain degree due to the pandemic. Many businesses and companies have had to limit their capacity or shut down entirely in response to these challenging times. To adapt to changing circumstances and challenges for farmers, it is essential to prepare and adjust not just for the safety of the business but also for our food supply. The shift in food production will continue around the world as pandemic responses have varied. It is difficult to predict what the future will look like for the market, but the increasing need for technology in farming is becoming more apparent.
Anwar, P. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic from Farm to Fork: Hard-won Lessons. Fundamental and Applied Agriculture, 5(3), 289–294. https://doi.org/10.5455/faa.111527
Taylor, D., Pritchard, A., Duhan, D., & Mishra, S. (2020, August 10). What’s behind the empty grocery store shelves [web log]. https://www.scmr.com/article/whats_behind_the_empty_grocery_shelves.
Tougeron, K., & Hance, T. (2021). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on apple orchards in Europe. Agricultural Systems, 190. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2021.103097
Yaffe-Bellany, D., & Corkery, M. (2020, April 11). Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables: Food Waste of the Pandemic. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/business/coronavirus-destroying-food.html.