ZAMBIA – INDABA Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) says there is need to ensure the food supply chain in Zambia is not negatively affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide has affected all sectors of the global economy as well as at country level. The food systems have not been spared by this outbreak, with developing countries poised to be the hardest hit in terms of food system interruptions.

According to IAPRI’s report on securing food systems and trade in Zambia during the COVID-19, the supply chain for retail chain stores such as Shoprite, Pick n Pay and Spar, among others, could be affected due to the lockdown in South Africa which could in turn interrupt the supply of imported foods to these shops with possibility of shortages leading to rise in prices.

With regard to informal markets, where the majority of low-income households purchase food from, more stringent movement restrictions and closure of markets will result in a disruption of people’s livelihoods and incomes and increased food waste especially for perishable food stuffs.

Despite the foreseen losses, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa announced that the flow of goods and services from reciprocal neighbouring countries will not be interrupted.

However, it is realistic to expect delays in their movement. For example, Zimbabwe and South Africa on March 26, 2020 agreed to jointly close Beitbridge Border Post to non-residents, with only Zimbabwean residents allowed to travel north and South African residents to move south.

However, cargo operations were not to be affected. The Zambia/ Chirundu border remains open for cargo.

Nevertheless, cargo has not been moving flawlessly from South Africa through Zimbabwe into Zambia. For example, the past two or so weeks has seen long queues of cargo trucks at Chirundu border post stretching almost 12 km, not because of COVID19, but because the ASYCUDA system upgrade did not go well resulting in delays in clearing the trucks.

Now with COVID-19, there will be mandatory screening and road blocks to screen inland and in transit travelers adding to the already congested system.

IAPRI recommends that to mitigate the risks of the pandemic on food security and nutrition, Zambia should not restrict movement of food commodities in and out of the country.

According to IAPRI, a well-managed open border policy will reduce chances of neighbouring countries reciprocating in future disasters and Zambia can become a reliable supplier of foods that it has comparative advantage to produce.