Impact of COVID-19 on food security and agriculture
Prior to the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic in March 2020, 1.6 million people in Mozambique were already estimated to be in severe acute food insecurity (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC] Phase 3 and above), most of whom face daily climate change and conflict-related risks. COVID-19 could further escalate these figures, with likely rises in humanitarian needs and food insecurity as a consequence of both the pandemic itself and efforts to contain its impact. The country is directly exposed to the effects of COVID-19 on people’s lives and wellbeing, aggravated by a weak and overburdened health system and high levels of malnutrition. There are also serious indirect impacts on livelihoods, through disruptions to food supply chains and access to food, basic services and humanitarian assistance.
Although, COVID-19 related prevention and containment measures have not had an impact on the harvest for the main agricultural season, which has been ongoing from March to June 2020, border restrictions have reduced food imports (e.g. rice), particularly from South Africa. Furthermore, despite maize prices decreasing in central and northern markets from April onwards, they remained 10-13 percent more expensive (compared with those during the same period last year) in southern regions due to the mediocre harvest in such areas. The harvest has contributed towards a dramatic decrease in the number of households with inadequate food consumption while buffering the impact of restrictions on food security, however, 32.6 percent of the population has reported adopting negative coping mechanisms, mainly spending savings, while more than a quarter report facing challenges in accessing markets.
In parts of Mozambique that are still recovering from two cyclones and recent drought and floods, any further disruption to food production and value chains could be catastrophic. More specifically, the Southern Region (currently affected by drought), Central Region (affected by Cyclone Idai last year), Cabo Delgado in the north (affected by Cyclone Kenneth, floods, conflict and internal displacement), and low-income urban/peri-urban populations across the country will be disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Cabo Delgado is also the province that has been most affected by COVID-19, followed by Nampula. Compounding the situation, due to the ongoing conflict in the area, more people have become displaced and are moving from Cabo Delgado to Nampula – a trend that is expected to continue over the coming months.