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THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON FOOD PRICES ACROSS THE GLOBE

Part One

CCORDING to the preliminary results of the Global Alliance on Improved Nutrition (GAIN) study on the potential impacts on consumers in the 10 African and Asian countries (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Tanzania), food price changes were examined (in percentage terms) over the 2.5-month period from February 14 (pre-pandemic) to April 30 2021.

The results presented indicated that, “Out of 136 country-food combinations, 118 showed price increases. The average change was a 6.4 percent increase in price, with every country showing a price increase for at least eight of the 14 foods examined (fish, bananas, bread, eggs, sweet potatoes, beef, chicken, onions, oranges, potatoes, milk, rice, and tomatoes, maize meal). The greatest average price increases were seen in Rwanda (a frightening 23.5 percent), Tanzania (12 percent), and Mozambique (10 percent) and the smallest in Nigeria and Bangladesh (under two percent).

Rwanda, for example, imposed a strong and strict lockdown earlier than many other countries in the region, and local stakeholders have reported considerable disruptions to their supply and distribution chains.”

It clear that it was an appropriate economic decision by President Edgar Lungu not to impose a total lock-down of the economy so as to cushion Zambians against Covid-19 economic shocks.   

The GAIN study further concludes that, “altogether price increases for many foods in all countries have occurred since the pandemic began.

Some of these are minor, but others are considerable and could have a real impact on diet quality – particularly if happening alongside job losses or other income reductions, as is currently happening around the world due to Covid-19, particularly for those in the informal sector.”

This study empirically supports the arguments by economists and Government that Covid-19 has indeed significantly contributed to the rise in food prices which is a significant component of inflation in general.

This is in addition to Covid-19’s impact on the volatility of exchange rates across the globe including the Zambian Kwacha against the US Dollar and other convertible currencies.

This article, therefore, attempts to correct the myth being propagated by some economists, especially those who have thrown away their economist jacket and are putting on the political jacket and have deliberately decided to ignore the impact of Covid-19 on all macroeconomic fundamentals one can think of.

This particular article looks at the impact of Covid-19 on food prices, but will start by highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on the economy generally.

Covid-19 is not a joke when it comes to disrupting the economy. And any politician who does not take Covid-19 seriously risks being irrelevant in the political-economic arena anywhere in the world.

Evidence is there to see how leaders who have not taken Covid-19 have lost popularity in their countries. The case in point is the former President of the United States, Donald Trump. We saw Joe Biden beating Trump on that score.

The Zambian government has made serious efforts in trying to save the Zambian people and the economy amidst this Covid-19 global health and economic pandemic.

The government attempted to tread cautiously when calls for a complete lock-down where made in 2020. It wanted to save both human life as well as the economy – the two are interconnected. President Lungu needs to be commended on this.

Citizens who are serious about ensuring that Zambia recovers from the impact of Covid-19 need to focus on supporting political leaders who have demonstrated seriousness in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

Any person who has studied economics should not downplay the negative impact that Covid-19 has had on the global and local economies.

Politicians, especially those who have studied economics, running governments and those attempting to wrestle power from those in Government need to be sincere when they are addressing Covid-19 issues. This is because Zambian lives matter, so does the Zambian economy.

*The author is an academic.  Send comments to lecturer.researcher@gmail.com

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