The Programmes Director of Fairtrade Africa, Chris Oluoch, has disclosed that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted adversely on farmers in Africa, with many losing up to 80 percent of their revenue.
Aside from the revenue losses occasioned by COVID-19, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says African farmers must also grapple with perennial food losses estimated at about $4billion annually.
Experts say the vast majority of food loss on the continent, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, happens between harvest and the point of sale.
Key causes of food loss in Africa are a lack of cold chain facilities especially for perishables, unreliable and inadequate storage facilities and insufficient agro-processing skills among smallholder farming communities.
These are some of the issues expected to underpin discussions at the 7th edition of the Africa Fairtrade Convention, which takes place virtually from 22nd to 25th June 2021.
The farmer-led virtual conference will take place on the theme ‘Producers, leading the future of trade’ with the critical objective to discuss improvement of value chains, trade relations and conditions which translate to sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers in Africa.
Addressing a virtual pre-event press conference from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Chris Oluoch said the pandemic has also seen many workers lose their jobs, as companies closed shop due to lack of access to markets as most countries closed their borders.
The effect of the restrictions, according to Oluoch, cut across almost all sectors in the agricultural production, namely cocoa, coffee, tea, horticulture, among others.
“In Kenya, about three flower farms completely shut down their business, while in Tanzania, two farms closed shop. The effects of the pandemic continue to cause havoc on the agriculture sector in the region that is already suffering from post-harvest losses,” said Oluoch.
The African farmers and workers will share best practices in a bid to build an understanding of production in the region with key topics including access to markets, the role of standards and benefits of value addition, as well as issues relating to unlocking trade and investment opportunities, market trends and sustainable and viable supply chains.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a wake-up call for governments to increase their investment in protecting African farmers against these losses. There is need to radically transform our food systems to make them more efficient and sustainable,” Oluoch added.
Besides tackling the issues for timely solutions, the 7th Africa Fairtrade Convention is also hoped to create business opportunities for an expected 1500 participants from 99 countries working across the value chain.
“The convention which is being held virtually, will include deal rooms, networking lounges, virtual farm tours, virtual exhibitions, breakaway sessions, as well discussions on upcoming market regulation; the impact of new rules for the certification of organic grower groups in developing countries supplying the growing EU organic market,” said Dr Argent Chuula, Executive Director at Fairtrade Africa.
Participating are trade organisations, finance and microfinance institutions, government representatives, traders and buyers, Fairtrade system members as well as Fairtrade Africa member farmers and workers.
The 2021 virtual convention is organised and co-funded by the European Union and Fairtrade Deutchland.
Organisers said the event will also culminate in the 2nd Edition of the Fair Ngoma Awards that recognises outstanding farmers and workers in 14 categories – 5 for hired labour, 5 for small producer organisations and 4 specials awards.