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Global Ag View: World’s farmers united by coronavirus threat

Labour availability, supply chain disruption and volatile prices are the issues uniting farmers around the world as the global industry reacts to coronavirus.

US Farm Bureau criticised a Government move to suspend non-emergency visa applications from Mexico.
US Farm Bureau criticised a Government move to suspend non-emergency visa applications from Mexico.
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Global Ag View: World’s farmers united by coronavirus threat

The US Farm Bureau has criticised a Government move to suspend all non-emergency visa applications from Mexico.

 

The bureau said that US farmers relied on more than a quarter of a million Mexican workers arriving on special visas every year and the ban has come at a time when demand for labour was approaching its peak.

 

Processing

 

The bureau was also concerned about disruption in processing plants.

 

In a letter to US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, American Farm Bureau president Zippy Duval said: “As companies adopt social distancing policies in keeping with health directives, this mode of work could have a significant impact on the processing plants that drive America’s supply chain.”

 

He called for monitoring and warnings if plants have to close or downgrade production.


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Vulnerable

 

The US agricultural industry is particularly vulnerable to the shutdown of restaurants, which has already happened in major states and cities such as Los Angeles and New York.

 

In 2018, Americans spent more than US$900 billion (£772 billion) on food out of the home, about 55 per cent of total food expenditure, according to USDA figures.

 

The US National Restaurant Association said the foodservice sector could be hit by US$225bn (£193bn) in losses and up to seven million jobs be lost in the next three months and has called for special help.

Crisis could expose farmers to unfair pricing practises

European farmers organisation Copa-Cogeca has teamed up with food processing bodies to lobby the European Commission to prioritise the supply of safe food by ensuring the EU single market continues to operate and that food trucks do not get stuck on borders.

 

New controls on the Polish border led to 40-mile traffic queues earlier in the month.

 

The associations warned of shortages of seasonal workers, urging farmers, processors, EU member states and the commission to develop contingency plans to ensure labour is available.

 

It also called on governments to stress there was no evidence food was a route of transmission for the virus.

 

Both US and EU farming groups have warned the crisis could expose farmers to unfair pricing practices and urged governments to monitor and highlight any discrepancies.

 

Austrailia

 

Australian farmers were particularly concerned about the impact the virus was having on trade.

 

In a statement, its National Farmers Federation said trade with China was starting to return to more normal levels, but there was great uncertainty over shipments to other parts of the world.

 

A spokesperson said: “Access to the necessary freight lines will also likely become more challenging as quarantine requirements at ports toughen and outbound air freight capacity reduces in line with the cancelling of passenger services.”

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