Complete Disruption: COVID-19 and Agriculture in South Asia

by Focus on the Global South

In March 2020, countries across the world went into nationwide lockdowns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agricultural activities such as sowing and harvest were delayed, and import and export of commodities were stalled, driving a wedge into supply chains that spanned many continents. Restrictions on movement, closures of provision stores and the loss of livelihoods limited both physical and economic access to food. Several projections warned of an increase in food insecurity and malnutrition, especially in low-income countries.

Drawing from interviews with peasant movement leaders in the South Asian region and a desk analysis of literature, this report provides a detailed summary of the unfolding reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on food and agriculture.

Two sets of observations emerge. One, the economic fallout of the pandemic has ostensibly reinforced the entry of corporate-backed food supply chains and market-led interventions in agriculture. Two, governments need to pay more attention to agriculture and its myriad issues, some of which are within the national realm and others that require a regional approach in sharing resources, knowledge and support among countries.