Coronavirus may cost Africa US$4.8bn in crop exports

The coronavirus pandemic could cost Africa as much as US$4.8 billion in lost agricultural exports and affect the livelihoods of 10 million farmers, McKinsey & Co. said.

Disruptions ranging from canceled flights to the closure of chocolate factories in Europe have limited exports of crops ranging from nuts to roses, according to the consultancy firm. Livelihoods will be affected through “job loss or price reductions,” McKinsey said.

Agriculture is key for African economies, accounting for 23 percent of gross domestic product and jobs for 60 percent of economically active people in the sub-Saharan region. Agricultural exports from the continent are worth between US$35 billion and US$40 billion annually.

McKinsey forecasts the following losses:

  • Between US$500 million and US$2 billion in exports of fruit, vegetables and nuts from countries such as South Africa
  • A fall in demand for chocolate and the resultant decline in prices could reduce cocoa exports by as much as US$2 billion
  • About US$200 million in exports of coffee, a crop that supports 6.6 million jobs mainly in East Africa
  • Between US$400 million and US$600 million in revenue from flower exports may be lost

The outbreak in Africa, which has about 190,000 confirmed infections and over 5,000 deaths, could also disrupt preparations for the next planting season and hamper efforts to curb an invasion of crop-eating locusts in East Africa.

Still, bumper harvests from the current season in some countries could cushion the blow.