GOVERNMENT should provide clear COVID-19 guidelines for the forthcoming 2020 crop marketing season in rural areas or else risk creating bigger social and economic problems, says the Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD).

In a statement, Monday, CTPD senior researcher Dr Simon Manda said government’s policy direction in the agricultural sector amid the COVID-19 crisis remained inadequate, hence required clear guidelines for farmers to adhere to ahead of this year’s crop marketing season, which usually commences in July.

“CTPD calls on government to give clear COVID-19 guidelines for the 2020 agricultural marketing season, particularly in rural areas. CTPD has observed that the current policy direction by government to the COVID-19 crisis is inadequate in as far as providing a good framework for the fast-approaching agriculture marketing season. CTPD further notes that the continued restrictions on social and economic activities risk causing widespread vulnerabilities, especially for rural producers, who face storage challenges and require quick access to markets,” stated Dr Manda.

“It is a well-known fact that rural producers face diverse challenges, such as poor storage, limited access to markets, coupled with unclear agriculture marketing guidelines, which often lead to serious delays in taking farmers’ produce to the markets, eventually leading to sharp drops in commodity supply and price hikes. CTPD thinks that a prudent, but cautious approach to agriculture marketing, which considers the local context in the country, can be advanced with clear marketing guidelines as government continues to fight the COVID-19 virus. The Centre has, however, warned that any delays to create COVID-19 agriculture marketing-related guidelines might create social and economic problems, probably much bigger than COVID-19 itself. We believe that in the current crisis, supporting broad-based livelihoods will be crucial given that social protection is minimal.”