Transportation issues and the risk for smallholder farmers
Sub Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, has some of the highest food losses in the world, mainly due to problems with post-harvest storage and market linkage. Market linkage consists of many elements but a key one is transportation. Given current COVID-19 related measures, it seems clear that transportation is facing severe challenges. An already existing high level of food loss and severe transport issues is not a good combination, particularly for Nigeria’s smallholder farmers and transporters.
Interviews with transporters suggest that there currently is a severe time and cost increase for intra-state movement of goods. BusinessDay previously reported this on April the 27th. More recent data unfortunately show the same trend. Some north to south destinations still show an almost 100% increase in travel time.
To fight COVID-19, border checks and other measures that limit the movement of people need to be enforced. At the same time, these measures should not cause any unnecessary problems for people, particularly the poor. Right now, however, it seems to do just that; transport originated in the north seems to be harder hit and at the same time the larger part of smallholder farmers in northern states, already before COVID-19 live below the poverty line, according to the report on poverty by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Agricultural transportation in the north is also less formalised than transportation originating from the South West, and therefore likely less resilient. So, the added time and cost for transport could end up directly reducing the farmers’ income, either less produce gets sold or the transport cost lowers the revenue. Added time will also affect the driver/owner of the trucks ability to earn money.
There is therefore an imminent need of finding ways to secure smooth cross border transport. Securing a more stringent protocol for the border staff is likely a good start. Safeguarding minimal disruptions in travel time should at least not increase the food losses and lower the burden on smallholder farmers and the transporters.