“The market for the crops has terribly shrunk. Today, I filled six sacks with cucumbers intending to take them to my usual customer in Harare, but he called to say there was a change of plan. He was not taking any products as their shop has not been allowed to re-open,” Mazowe farmer Mirriam Madzivanyika told the Zimbabwe Independent.
“There are no buyers in wholesale markets either. Traders have stopped taking calls from farmers.” The Zimbabwean government announced a countrywide lockdown which began on March 30 in an attempt to control the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, but the move has brought anxiety to farmers.
For farmers who grow high-value perishable crops like the Madzivanyika and her husband, it has dealt a severe financial blow as they have been left stuck with fresh produce without a market. They are facing labour shortages and limited supply chain as people self-isolate, leaving them stuck with millions of dollars’ worth of perishable produce.
The government has gradually eased the lockdown, allowing wholesale markets to function as well as transport of all food items across the country, but in reality, the food supply chain is anything but smooth. Trucks and migrant labourers working on the farms are in short supply and small retailers in urban centres are finding it difficult to re-open. Fears are that a bigger crisis may unfold when farmers across the country get into the peak of the harvesting period.
Any disruption at peak harvesting season would hurt small farmers disproportionately since they usually sell their produce right after harvest to repay loans and fund the next crop.