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09 July, 2020 COVID-19 Information and Updates

COVID-19 Update: July 9, 2020

COVID-19 Update: July 9, 2020


In some countries, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be under control despite certain spikes in infections in some regions or states. That is the case, for instance, of Spain and Australia. Lockdowns and other restrictions have ended and borders are starting to be reopened to international travelers. However, other countries such as the US, Mexico, Brazil, India and Iran are reporting rises in the number of coronavirus cases.


WHO

In a recent media briefing on COVID-19, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom highlighted the fact that a comprehensive approach is the fastest way out of the pandemic: “The fastest way out of this pandemic is to follow the science and do what we know works: the comprehensive approach”. In addition to this, Dr. Tedros remarked the fact that Italy and Spain, a few months ago, were the epicenter of the pandemic, but both countries eventually controlled the spread of COVID-19: “with a combination of leadership, humility, active participation by every member of society, and implementing a comprehensive approach. Both countries faced a daunting situation, but turned it around”.

FFA

The Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA) held the Regional Online Live meeting titled Food system resilience, sustainability and the COVID-19 crisis: looking ahead to the German Presidency of the EU. The discussion assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the EU food system and explored the necessary response. The discussion focused on how the EU can best use its new policy initiatives like the Farm to Fork Strategy to not just help the food system recover, but to do so in a sustainable way.

Australia

Most Australian states dramatically slowed or eradicated the virus as well as the measures to mitigate its consequences. However, in Melbourne, 12 suburbs have been putting “stage three”  restrictions, and therefore, people will only be able to leave their house for work or education, exercise, medical care or care-giving, and shopping for supplies. In addition to this, nine tower blocks in the city are facing a more rigorous lockdown.

Chile

According to Chilenut the volume of walnut exports accumulated, as of May 31, have decreased 37%, compared to the same period of the previous year. However, the drop in exports can be mainly explained because certain varieties had lower production, instead of the effects of the COVID-19 on international trade. It is expected that the level of shipments will normalize in the coming months and reach similar volumes to previous seasons.

China

In Beijing, new coronavirus cases have remained low. On July 7, Beijing reported zero new cases. Health authorities have declared that the pandemic situation is under control and continues to improve in Beijing. However, in order to prevent future outbreaks, strict control measures must remain in place.

According to a USDA GAIN Report issued on June 22, the COVID-19 pandemic generated new approaches to serving China’s 1 billion adult consumers. Both the government and the industry enacted measures to open commerce when public health authorities required lockdowns throughout most of the provinces and cities in China. While traditional supermarkets saw some growth in their business as consumers were unable to dine out, the eCommerce industry attracted more users and generated double and even triple sales value for fresh produce and other food items.

European Union

On June 30, the EU agreed to start lifting travel restrictions for residents of some third countries, based on public health requirements and other criteria. From July 1, EU Member States started lifting travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following third countries: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity. Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered as EU residents for the purpose of this recommendation. The list of countries shall be reviewed and updated every two weeks.

On June 24, the EU Council adopted a regulation that allows Member States, as an exceptional measure, to pay up to €7,000 to farmers and up to €50,000 to small and medium enterprises (SME's) active in processing, marketing or development of agricultural products. The aim of this regulation is to use the existing funds for rural development programs in order to support farmers and SME's worst-hit by the COVID-19, and to address liquidity problems. Member States are allowed to identify beneficiaries and to adapt the amount of payments. In the case of farmers, the eligibility criteria must include production sectors and type of farming, among others. In the case of SME's, the criteria may include sectors, types of activity and types of regions.

The EU also extended the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rules until the end of 2022. The Council reached a common understanding with the European Parliament on June 30, on continuing to support EU farmers under the current legal framework until the end of 2022 when the new CAP will enter into force.

On June 30, the Republic of Korea and EU Leaders held a videoconference meeting. They expressed their strong commitment to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic by working together with partners globally and in solidarity, including in the G20 and the United Nations system. The EU commended the Republic of Korea’s proactive and innovative steps to prevent and tackle COVID-19 in a transparent, open and democratic way. The leaders stressed the importance of strengthened response capacities and enhanced information sharing. The EU and the Republic of Korea will seek to strengthen cooperation in this regard, involving the respective health authorities and centers for disease control.

Greece

The Greek Government announced the steps that tourists need to take in order to travel to Greece. According to Euractiv, an online form shall be filled at least 48 hours before traveling. Then, the data will be evaluated by experts based on risk criteria, such as the country of origin, health records, as well as the countries to which the tourist has previously traveled. Upon arrival to Greece, the traveler will show a special barcode to the authorities. A 14 day quarantine will apply if someone is found positive of COVID-19.

Italy

The EU Commission approved four Italian aid schemes to support companies and self-employed workers affected by the COVID-19. Italy notified these four aid schemes to the Commission under the Temporary Framework, with an overall estimated budget of €7.6 billion. The schemes waive certain taxes and provide tax credits to companies and self-employed workers affected by the outbreak. These measures are included in a wider package to support the Italian economy in the context of the pandemic, the so-called Decreto Rilancio.

According to a recent USDA GAIN Report, online food shopping experienced a significant surge in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic, growing by 145% from February 17 to May 3, compared to the same period last year. Convenience stores and discount stores also increased sales. However, the closure of restaurants, bars, catering services and shopping centers significantly lowered the sales in these businesses.

Spain

According to a USDA GAIN Report issued on June 24, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spanish food retail and distribution sector had the fewest stock shortages compared to neighboring countries. Regional retailers and eCommerce were the preferred ways to shop for groceries. In addition to this, consumers preferred domestic foods, which is a trend expected to continue past the pandemic.

Another recent report highlighted that the scale and impact of COVID-19 in Spain remain uncertain and fast evolving. The initial predictions on the economic effects of the pandemic are not optimistic for trade and consumption. In their latest report, the Bank of Spain projected that, in the second quarter of 2020, the Spanish GDP is expected to contract between 16 and 22%, officially indicating the start of an economic recession. This follows a record-setting GDP drop of 5.2% during the first quarter of this year. The challenge now is adjusting to the so-called “new normal” and to the short and long-term changes and challenges brought on by the pandemic. 

India

A recent USDA GAIN Report looks at three ordinances that will introduce major agricultural market reforms in India. These rules are expected to liberate certain existing market restrictions, eliminate trade barriers in agricultural production, and empower farmers to engage directly with potential buyers in advance of harvest. These amendments are part of the Special Economic Package to stimulate India’s agricultural sector in the post-COVID-19 economy.

In the Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNP), Mumbai, operations have improved with more new drivers available, according to a USDA GAIN Report. During the lockdown, the number of drivers required fell to 2,220 from 4,000. Exports out of JNP have increased in June. However, imports have declined by 40%. Mundra, Kandla and Mangalore are still facing delays due to lack of availability of workers, trucks or containers.

According to another GAIN Report, the food retail situation in India is diverse. As some markets and grocery stores in Pune, Bhopal and Goa reopened due to the relaxation of lockdown measures, other markets in Hyderabad and Chennai closed. The first one because the death of a vendor, who tested positive for COVID-19, and the second, due to a full lockdown imposed from June 19 to 30. In Chennai, grocery retailers in certain areas shut down operations for ten days due to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

Japan

In Japan, following requests for people to stay home during the pandemic, retail sales at supermarkets major chains have surged, up 20 to 30% in March and April, according to a GAIN Report. However, restaurant and hotel food service sales fell dramatically as schools closed, tourism halted, and public outings were greatly reduced.

Senegal

The Government of Senegal enacted several measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19, such as curfews, border closures and movement restrictions, according to a recent GAIN Report. In April 2020, Senegal launched the Economic and Social Resilience Program to support many parts of the economy, including tourism and agriculture. In addition to this, on June 29, the Government announced that is working on a post-COVID economic program to relaunch the economy, which will prioritize several key sectors including agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, among others.

United States

On June 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a joint statement on food export restrictions related to COVID-19. According to this statement, the US understands consumers’ concerns about the precautions to prioritize food safety, especially during these challenging times. However, certain measures taken by some countries, which restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission, are not consistent with scientific approach. As stated in the joint declaration: “There is no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging. The U.S. food safety system, overseen by our agencies, is the global leader in ensuring the safety of our food products, including product for export”.

The US announced work visa suspensions in late June. However, according to Fresh Fruit Portal, seasonal farmworkers who use the H-2A visa are exempt from the new measures, amid an ongoing labor shortage in the agricultural industry and increasing reliance on the guest worker program.
 
The information above is a review of actions the INC has compiled from government sources, international organizations and press media. This news article is not intended to be exhaustive and it does not reflect the opinions of the INC. While the publishers believe that all information contained in this publication was correct at the time of publishing, they can accept no liability for any inaccuracies that may appear or loss suffered directly or indirectly by any reader as a result of any advertisement, editorial, photographs or other materials published in this news article
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