context: The 2019-nCoV epidemic has thrown a spanner into the entire agricultural value chain, particularly consumption and logistics. However, earlier urgent government requirements to ensure ag logistics and food supply have barely been implemented because local officials are now prioritising disease prevention over food security. Both consumers and producers are struggling amidst this crisis.

During the Spring Festival holiday, lockdowns and mandatory quarantine in several ag production areas prevented poultry, fruit, and vegetables from being delivered to urban markets, leading to price rises. China’s consumer prices rose 5.4% y-o-y in Jan, the fastest in more than eight years, with the prices of pork and fresh vegetables jumping by 116% and 17.1%, respectively. Other meat products, including beef, lamb, and poultry also witnessed 10.4% to 20.2% y-o-y increases.

On the other side, ag producers are suffering because deliveries of materials, such as seed, fertiliser, and animal feed, also face transport restrictions. According to Lin Guofa 林国发 BRIC Agri-Info Group research director, such logistical problems will likely adversely affect the cash flow of poultry producers, creating massive challenges to the post-epidemic supply.

The fallout will also negatively impact the upcoming spring planting starting in February, with potential year-long effects on ag production, warns Lin. The ag sector may also face a huge labor shortage if the epidemic continues to keep farmers at home.

Following earlier decision to guarantee national food supply, on 10 Feb 2020, MARA (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs) published a notice on preparing the spring plowing in time, specifying:

  • encouraging farmers to initiate their farming activities in order with necessary disease prevention measures
  • conducting targeted field management for winter wheat, rapeseed, vegetables, fruits, tea
  • facilitating seed, fertiliser, pesticide, and other ag production materials to be channeled to villages and local stores
  • preparing ag machinery and setting up plans to support areas hit hard by the epidemic
  • providing production guidance and technical services
  • implementing ag disaster monitoring, prevention, and mitigation strategy
  • encouraging local farmers and unemployed migrant workers to participate in ag production and to eliminate labor shortages of local family farms, ag cooperatives, and leading ag companies
  • supporting ag material companies to restore production as soon as possible