To combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, provincial and federal governments in Pakistan introduced non-pharmaceutical interventions, including restrictions on movements of people and lockdowns of cities during March–May 2020. Anticipating that the lockdowns and movement restrictions would have negative impacts on the marketing of agricultural and food products, they were exempted from the restrictions. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that marketing of agricultural and food products was negatively affected despite the exemptions.
To gather reliable empirical evidence on the issue, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) conducted two mobile phone surveys with 429 farmers in Punjab province in May 2020 and 410 farmers in Sindh province in June 2020. The surveys collected information about how COVID-19-related measures and disruptions affected (i) the harvesting and marketing of rabi crops (crops that are sown and harvested from about November to April) and milk, (ii) the availability and price of inputs, and (iii) farmers’ financial needs.
The two surveys found that the COVID-19 pandemic had significant negative impacts on farm households in Punjab and Sindh. In both provinces, one-third of farm households experienced losses in wages and nonfarm earnings, and almost one-quarter reported that at least one family member had returned from urban or other areas. Thus, farm households needed to support more family members but with decreased wages and nonfarm earnings. About 10% of farm households in Punjab and more than half the farm households in Sindh reported reduced food and nonfood expenditures.
Regarding agricultural impacts, farmers in both provinces cited market closures and traders’ unavailability due to movement restrictions among their main difficulties. Furthermore, as many restaurants and markets closed, the demand for high-value agricultural products, such as milk and tomatoes, collapsed, resulting in low market prices. In addition, farmers faced acute problems for kharif crops (crops that are sown and harvested during the monsoon season, which lasts from about June to November) because of the limited availability and increased prices of farm inputs, particularly seeds. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Sindh farm households’ marketing of agriculture products more heavily than was the case in Punjab. Some farm households in Sindh suffered from locust invasion and crop damage during the kharif season.
Although the transport and marketing of agricultural and food products was exempted from the movement restrictions and lockdowns, this working paper found the COVID-19 pandemic had negative impacts on rural households, including reduced cash nonagricultural income and difficulties with marketing agricultural products in Punjab and Sindh. In addition, they faced increased prices of agricultural inputs. These findings suggest the need for better monitoring and support for agricultural marketing, supplies, and services during movement restrictions under the pandemic. As Pakistan and other countries struggle under the pandemic and prepare for recovery, it is critical to maintain normal flows of agricultural and food products in the markets to secure food availability during the pandemic.
- Asian Development Bank
- © Asian Development Bank