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14 May, 2020 COVID-19 Information and Updates

COVID-19 Update: May 14, 2020

COVID-19 Update: May 14, 2020


The challenges faced worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic are still visible, as well as the measures in order to adapt or re-adapt in the fast-changing environment of the pandemic. The efforts made by different governments, communities, companies, and people are significant to mitigate the effects of the disease. Several countries such as France, Germany, Spain, or Poland are reopening stores and other businesses, and some others such as Australia or Norway may end lockdowns and other restrictive measures to return to the routine.


However, although governments are lifting or easing some measures, the risk of infection is still present. “The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully, and in a phased approach”, stated Mr. Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director-General. Consequently, the World Health Organization outlined the three criteria that countries need to consider before lifting stay at home orders and other restrictions: (1) Is the epidemic under control? (2) Is the healthcare system able to cope with a resurgence of cases? (3) Is the public health surveillance system able to detect and manage the cases and their contacts?

FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has recently published a Policy Brief which analyzes pandemic-driven recession’s thread to global hunger levels. It recommends to stimulate the economy in all countries in order to keep the food supply chains functioning, while also protecting access to locally-, regionally- and globally-produced food. Stimulus measures that tackle the current menace to food access should emphasize efforts to build resilience into food systems to safeguard them against future economic slowdowns and downturns.

OECD

On April 29, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) issued a report on the issues and policy responses in the food and agriculture sector. This report identifies the impacts on the world economy and the global food and agriculture sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, both directly and through the measures that contain the spread of the disease. Some of these impacts may be damaged food security, nutrition and livelihoods of farmers and other workers along the supply chain. The OECD stresses the need of governmental measures to manage multiple demands, such as responding to the health crisis, its economic consequences, and ensuring the smooth functioning of the food system. However, these challenges may be seen as an opportunity to accelerate necessary transformation in the food and agriculture sector, enhancing its resilience, sustainability and productivity.
 
Another OECD report highlights COVID-19 regional socio-economic implications and policy priorities in emerging Asia. It states that economic growth is facing significant pressure and the impact on firms, workers and households is profound.  The importance of digitalization in order to improve countries’ ability to absorb shocks linked to crises is emphasized.

WTO & IMF

The World Tarde Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called for lifting trade restrictions on food and medical supplies. Both organizations discourage the application of counterproductive export restrictions, which taken collectively, could lead to disrupted supply chains or depressed production with the most serious effects on the most vulnerable countries.
 
IMF is promoting transparent and accountable use of COVID-19 financial assistance, working closely with its members sustaining the fight against corruption to ensure the correct use of resources to protect lives and livelihoods.

European Union 

The EU informed the WTO on a new set of COVID-19 measures, following the notification of a first round of measures on April 7. This second set includes policies to address the economic consequences of the pandemic, such as legislation changes regarding export subject to authorization or the temporary framework for state aid measures, among others. In addition to this, the EU is committed to continue to make sure that any pandemic-related trade measures are targeted, proportionate, temporary, transparent and consistent with the commitments made by the G20 group.
 
Due to the new pandemic scenario, some questions have emerged regarding the application of provisions related to the customs decision-making process, procedures and formalities. For these reasons, the EU Council issued the Guide on Customs Issues related to the COVID-19 emergency. The objective of this document is to offer guidance to stakeholders on practical solutions given by the current legal framework in this time of health emergency. As the situation can evolve rapidly, this guide will be updated as needed.
 
The EU not only applied measures to national citizens, but also issued a €3 billion assistance package to support the neighboring countries Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Jordan, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Republic of North Macedonia, Tunisia and Ukraine. This assistance will help to cover their immediate financing needs which have increased as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The funds will be available for twelve months and will be disbursed in two installments. The loans will have a maximum average maturity of 15 years and will be subject to a memorandum of understanding, to be agreed between each partner and the EC. The European Parliament and the Council need to adopt this proposal before its entry into force.
 
On May 8, the Eurogroup held a videoconference which was followed by a statement on the Pandemic Crisis Support, which is available to all EU Member States for amounts of 2% of the Member’s GPD to help the domestic financing of direct and indirect healthcare, cure and prevention related costs due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Finland

The measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in Finland had a positive effect on the infection rates, although these measures had an economic impact. According to a USDA GAIN Report, Finland is offering aid to companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including funding programs for medium-sized businesses, state guarantees for loans, subsidized public loans and public short-term export credit insurance, among others.

Italy 

The Italian Ministry of Agriculture issued an emergency fund of €100 million in order to aid agricultural companies with three different measures: passive interest coverage, mortgage interest coverage, and temporary suspension coverage of fishing and aquaculture activities.
 
A recent article published by HVS described some of the restrictions to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, stating that many activities are still forbidden, despite of the phased reopening started on May 3. It is expected that certain businesses such as retail shops, bars and restaurants will reopen between May 18 and June 1, but still subject to restrictions. The article focuses on the possible economic impact on the tourism industry, which represents approximately 13% of the country’s GDP, the challenges that may face the progressive reopening of businesses, and the possible profit losses due to national and international traveling restrictions.

Spain

Spain is easing lockdown measures in certain regions, allowing small stores and other businesses to operate, while some other regions still remain under stricter stay-at-home measures, according to public health criteria. However, it is expected that most of the restrictions will be lifted by the end of June.

Argentina 

Argentina stopped its participation in MERCOSUR negotiations due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, according to Buenos Aires Times. Consequently, Argentina will no longer be involved in the ongoing trade talks with third countries such as South Korea or India, among others.

Australia 

The Government of Australia launched a website which provides useful information to ensure a safe return to work. Furthermore, the Government of Queensland issued Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for employers of seasonal workers during COVID-19 outbreak, including mandatory health plans and general health obligations.

Canada 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) offers a period of leniency for new Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) for manufactured foods, according to a recent USDA GAIN Report. The CFIA will continue to enforce food safety requirements and businesses are encouraged to be fully compliant with the SFCR requirements. However, in order to support food availability and to prevent possible business disruptions, manufactured food producers may continue to operate without an SFCR license past July 15.

China 

As of May 7, all the counties in China are classified as low-risk regions as announced at a press briefing by the Chinese State Council inter-agency task force, with the exception of Shulan City. However, routine control measures must remain in place to prevent a domestic resurgence of the virus, including the closure of six categories of services such as cinemas, theaters and karaoke bars, among others, as well as crowd control measures in places such as parks, guest houses or libraries. Previously, China announced tighter control at ports of entry to minimize the disease’s importation risks.

India 

The lockdown in India is due to end on May 17, but some restrictions may continue in certain areas. The port situation in India, according to a USDA GAIN Report published on May 8, indicates that, despite previous truck movement restrictions, drivers are gradually returning to work. However, the lack of workers and trucks together with the continued difficulties faced by drivers in crossing state borders, may slow down some operations. According to USDA-Global Agricultural Trade Atlas, cited as a source in the same report, in 2019, tree nuts represented the largest volume of imports of agricultural and related products from the US to India.
 
As for food retail, some cities such as Ahmedabad will be under complete lockdown for a week, beginning on May 7, and Surat, which was under complete lockdown from May 9 to May 14, among others, according to a USDA GAIN Report published on May 8. Chennai reports that food retail revenues have fallen by 30-40% due to supply chain issues, lack of labor and a fall in consumer demand. However, certain cities such as Goa report a better situation compared with the past weeks, as the Panaji municipal market complex reopened on May 7 after a six week closure.

Japan 

The State of Emergency in Japan was extended until May 31. On May 1, a USDA GAIN Report informed on COVID-19 Related Tax Relief for Japanese farmers, in case their incomes from sales decreased over 30% for any month between February and October 2020. The government also postponed certain national tax payments for one year together with the reduction or elimination of local tax payments. In addition, a COVID-19 Cash Allowance is also available in order to sustain businesses affected by losses related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

South Africa 

As of May 1, the country entered in level 4 of measures to mitigate COVID-19. This level allows certain organizations to operate as well as long distance inter-provincial transportation.
 
Starting in April, the National Plant Protection Organization of South Africa introduced the use of eCertification for the issuance of phytosanitary certificates for plant and plant products in general. Electronic stamps and signatures need to be used during the e-Certification process. The phytosanitary certificate contains security features such as QR code, phytosanitary certificate number and barcode. This measure was notified to the WTO on May 6, 2020.

Sri Lanka 

Sri Lanka temporarily suspended imports of several products, including peanuts, from April 16 to July 15, according to a USDA GAIN Report.

Turkey

The effects of COVID-19 on food and agriculture in Turkey were covered in a USDA GAIN Report published on May 4, including Government support and programs. The Treasury and Finance Minister announced that the payments of Treasury-backed loans to farmers due in May and June will be postponed for six months. In addition to this, an online marketplace for farmers and agri-business producers to connect with buyers was announced on April 29.
 
Turkey recently applied a 72-hour rule to truck drivers entering the country in order to ensure safe trade amid COVID-19 outbreak, according to Daily Sabah. This rule allows drivers to be able to deliver cargo and exit the country within 72 hours without being subject to a 14-day quarantine.

The United Kingdom 

On April 29, the UK and China held a meeting on cooperation in the fight against the pandemic and on the development of bilateral relations, with the aim to reach high-level bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, scientific innovation and tackling the climate change.
 
The agriculture and foodservice sectors in the UK are facing a challenging economic situation during the lockdown. According to a USDA GAIN Report issued on May 2, the foodservice situation in the country is difficult due to the closure of pubs, restaurants and hotels, among other hospitality businesses. However, there is a rising demand on online shopping.

United States 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued Best Practices for Re-Opening Retail Food Establishments during the COVID-19 Pandemic, including a checklist and an infographic designed to address key food safety practices for retail food establishments in their preparation to reopen.
 
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Small Business Administration has resumed processing the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance of up to $10,000 for those small businesses, including agricultural companies and other farming and agricultural related industries, that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. This loan advance will not have to be repaid. 
 
The US and the UK started the first round of negotiations for a US-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on May 5. Further rounds shall take place approximately every six weeks, and will be carried out remotely due to public health and social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both countries have already laid the groundwork for an ambitious agreement and discussed about the topics which are typically included in the FTAs.
 
The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) issued a new Guidance on Detention and Demurrage about how it will assess the reasonableness of detention and demurrage charges. Under the new interpretive rule, the movement of cargo and freight fluidity will be prioritized. In addition to this, the FMC may also consider in assessing the reasons of detention and demurrage practices factors related to content and clarity of carrier and Multimodal Transport Operation (MTO) insurance policy, and clarity of carrier and MTO detention and demurrage terminology.
 
According to the latest Position Report of the Almond Board of California (ABC) the salable handler shipments in April were 103.5 million pounds (46,946 MT), slightly below the previous crop year 2018/19 (same month) which were 109.3 million pounds (49,598 MT). However, despite the difficult market conditions, all regions except for Asia-Pacific are reporting year to date gains.

 
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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