Pandemic is hitting Europe’s harvesting, transportation and processing segments the hardest.
In Europe, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is hitting the agriculture sector’s harvesting, transportation and processing the hardest.
A recent report from Rabobank said the impact of COVID-19 on Europe’s crops and animals “seems to be manageable,” but outlines some specific challenges, including shortages of certain feed ingredients and crop protection products from China.
“Primary agricultural production is continuing,” the report said. “In Europe, in general, the planting of crops in spring is not at risk. Inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and crop protection chemicals are already either at the farm or in warehouses at nearby farm inputs retailers. Livestock rearing, and milk and egg production are also continuing. Animal feed is still reaching farmers.”
But, the report said, labor shortages are contributing to problems with the harvesting of crops and collection of animals for processing.
“The social distancing requirements limit the number of people who can work together in small areas. One shift cannot replace the previous shift without some time in between to prevent the risk of shifts contaminating each other. Transport of labor to sites requires people to travel separately,” the report said.
These problems, along with less availability of immigrant labor, are not unique to Europe during the pandemic, but could lead to a loss in production in the region, as labor issues are the “most pressing concern” at processors in Europe.
While food transportation services are exempted from lockdown measures in Europe, high rates of the COVID-19 virus are contributing to driver shortages and higher transport costs.
The report said EU imports of commodities are not hugely affected, but the region is seeing lower availability of protein meals and dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) from the U.S. and within the EU as a result of lower biofuel production. Some countries in eastern Europe have opted to ban the export of staple food and commodity crops to preserve supplies in the wake of the pandemic.