Nacikgoz

At the current monitoring stage of the corona virus, some may not grasp immediately its relationship with agriculture. When we ask “what will we eat tomorrow”, that food resources and farming come to our mind. We know that the rings in the food chain are always human focused: farming practices are carried out by human being. In case of any hitch of one of ring means, that the food chain breaks.

Now, let’s give a few examples of these ring deficiencies. In California, where fruit and vegetable farming are intense in the USA, sowing, planting, fertilizing, irrigation, pruning, spraying and harvesting are always carried on with temporary workers coming from Mexico. After the US consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, stopped the H2-A temporary worker visa process, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition wrote in its letter to Pompeo (US foreign minister): “The American people need a stable food supply to maintain healthy diets and strong immune systems, especially now during this national health crisis. The failure to take necessary action to protect our food supply will result in bare shelves in grocery store produce aisles, not from panic buying, but as the result of the federal government directly causing a shortage of critical labor.”

German strawberry and asparagus producers employing temporary migrant workers, despite their closed borders, are currently waiting the temporary workers coming from new EU member states. Germany has closed its border to temporarily agricultural workers from some countries including Bulgaria and Romania. In this case especially asparagus, strawberries and cucumbers harvest will be impacted. But more interesting: “you harvest what you have planted”. What will be the short and medium seasonal plantings in the future? Situations in Italy and Spain seem not to be very promising. State Aid, requested as grants and tax reduction to primary agricultural producers seems not to compensate farmers loses. And therefor they should also be supported for “due to not being able to reach to seasonal workers”.

In EU number of cross-border workers is 1,5 million. Let’s think alternatively, how will the jobs done without worker and how will the not jobless workers feed their families? “Many of them have jobs that are important for us all to get through the crisis,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said . And the EU released a list of “critical workers”. It says it must be allowed continued freedom of movement across its internal borders, despite emergency coronavirus measures including health workers, truck drivers carrying food and seasonal workers.

Turkey-Georgia border was closed after the outbreak of Corona. Thereupon, the tea producers on the Black Sea coasts immediately began to look for a solution to the workers’ problem. Because maintenance was about to start in tea plantations. Let’s have a look inside the country. Soon there will be plum and cherry harvests in the Mediterranean and Aegean regions. Will workers expected to come from outside the province for harvest come? How will they have transferred? In vegetable farming, seedling plantation is carried out in different locations. Seedlings should be planted on time. The grower cannot plant their field without these seedlings. Each step depends on the human being who is the target of the coronavirus. The planting of summer plants like corn and sunflower is about to begin.

Delivering food to consumers is another important problem. Actually, every stage in agriculture is a difficult situation during the virus crisis. It is not particularly easy for wholesalers and exporters. Many agricultural products have to be consumed fresh and you cannot keep them for a long time. Therefore, wholesalers and exporters must dispose of their goods within a specified time. What can you do when border has been closed before you shipped your goods. Trading such quick consumable goods during corona outbreak is a risky job.

When the virus first appeared in China, Russia closed the border and stopped importing agricultural products. At that time, there was an increase in Turkey’s exports to Russia of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially lemon, but this led to price increases in the domestic market.
Currently, all elements of the sector, from fields to greenhouses, from gardens to wholesalers and markets, are experiencing uncertainty. Although the Ministries of Agriculture are making decisions about the effects of the epidemic on agriculture, there may be a series of problems that fall under the responsibility of other bodies. For example, local organizations or NGO’s may be involved in the creation of local harvest teams, consisting of volunteers. And his could be a temporally solution in case of worker shortage. So, it would be appropriate to create a “VIRUS AND AGRICULTURE WORKING GROUP” included related NGO’s immediately. This board, where related bodies-disciplines are gathered together, can use the chance putting into action on time, without skipping any problems. Again, agricultural and coronavirus-oriented scientific advisory boards to be established within the Ministry will have a great benefit in overcoming this crisis.
Nazimi Acikgoz
Note: This paper is summarized from a Turkish blog: https://nazimiacikgoz.wordpress.com/2020/03/24/corona-virusunun-tarimsal-ekonomilere-etkileri-2/

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