COVID-19 disruption provides incentive to increase organics

Organic farmers and agricultural product producers in the Pacific are calling for an increase in consumption of local, sustainably grown healthy food, as well as greater use of technology and online platforms for growing, selling and buying produce as a response to disruption in their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 outbreak. These and additional pandemic recovery solutions for the agriculture sector were released today in the COVID-19 Survey Report completed by the POETCom (Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community) programme of the Pacific Community’s Land Resources Division. 

The survey, which received responses from farmers and agriculture-based organizations throughout the Pacific, revealed that close to 84 percent of respondents’ markets and sales were affected by the pandemic, with close to 40 percent stating that they were already receiving outside assistance, or planned to receive assistance in the near future to boost their post-COVID recovery. Respondents suggested a number of actions to ensure agriculture and its supply chains are more resilient to future disruptions, including building a stronger organic community from seed to table.

“This is an excellent opportunity to accelerate the transition to organic,” stated Jim Pierce, the POETCom Coordinator. “We hope to stimulate and guide suggested actions such as cultivating backyard gardens for home use and bartering, seed storage to prevent depletion during emergencies, and building model farms with multiple crops and income streams to decrease reliance on one product and market. We will move forward with these ideas to strengthen local and regional organic systems and help re-engage the current idle workforce.”

The report provides a timely snapshot of the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted farmers and businesses, and how organizations and others, including Government, community, NGOs, family and religious institutions, are providing assistance. Though 63 percent of respondents reported the availability of assistance from the Government, close to 12 percent indicated that assistance potentially threatens organic production due to non-compliant organic inputs being provided by the Ministries of Agriculture. 

In addition to strengthening the organic systems and re-engaging the organic agriculture workforce, POETCom also recommends sourcing and evaluating locally produced organic compliant inputs, focusing on value added products, product diversification and import substitution, increasing the presence and marketing of organic online platforms, and better supporting National Government farmer assistance that aligns with organic principles. POETCom will use the valuable member and partner feedback to enhance its role as the central hub for organic and sustainable farming information in the Pacific.