Concerns of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its effect on food production and supply.
March 13, 2020:- The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF) has been monitoring the latest developments with COVID-19 globally and in particular:
- the potential risks to our farmers, their families and communities as well as the Ministry’s own employees, families and those of its agencies;
- the potential risks of COVID-19 on food and other incoming shipments related to agriculture out of China and elsewhere;
- the potential impact of any disruptions in shipping routines, particularly out of the United States of America (USA) involving hatching eggs for the local poultry sector; grain including wheat for milling into flour; other meats and dairy; oils; peas and beans; and fruits and vegetables;
- the potential disruption or delays in the shipping arrangements for seeds, chemicals, equipment, packaging from various global sources; and
- the risks of COVID-19 on domesticated animals and wildlife;
In relation to the import risks we have been monitoring, our Animal Health officers who issue permits for the import of meat, meat products, poultry hatching eggs, table eggs, milk, milk products, cheese, cheese products etc, are working closely with importers and other agencies to expedite internal processes as much as possible with the goal that regular supplies to T&T’s consumers are maintained.
If there are potential interruptions in traditional supplies, our officers would assist importers in their search for new sources which meet local requirements, in order to satisfy the food/meat protein needs of our population.
Additionally, all possible avenues are also being considered for online/remote trade process facilitation in light of current concerns and workplace trends.
We already know that local poultry producers are facing increased costs of input as inland USA transport is affected by shortages of labour and equipment supplies. Alternative transport is being sourced at higher prices. As far as possible, we continue to encourage our stakeholders to manage input costs and overheads in the interest of the consumers.
Apart from these areas of concern, our agency, The National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO) operates Farmers Markets across the country as well as Wholesale Markets at Debe and Macoya. While the Corporation has food safety and health measures in place at all its markets, specific measures have been heightened to deal with risks associated with COVID-19. NAMDEVCO has implemented measures to increase spacing at its markets; to prevent crowding and overcrowding; and to ensure that all vendors are aware of the basic Public Health measures that have to be adhered to given the COVID-19 risks. NAMDEVCO employees as well as Public Health officers, from the Ministry of Health would be monitoring all our facilities for adherence to these basic measures. Customers are also encouraged through appropriately placed signage to use hand sanitizer that is being made available at all facilities where sale of produce and other food products are conducted.
Along with NAMDEVCO, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, has deployed its trained officers to support the ongoing investigations and agriculture-based livelihood assessments, in its efforts to inform further response to alleviate the risks of COVID-19.
We will continue to closely monitor ongoing developments as it relates to COVID -19 and will provide periodic updates via press releases and the Ministry’s Facebook Page.