Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Information and recommendations about farmers and COVID-19 quarantine measures

The MaYA Foundation has been following a few cases where farmers have been obliged to follow quarantine rules. Frequently asked questions and official replies can be obtained on this link: https://agrifish.gov.mt/en/Documents/coronavirus/faqCoronaVirusEN.pdf

A farmer may be obliged to stay at home for 15 days as a preventive measure or in case of a positive COVID-19 result. One may then request for an exemption by email and only after providing detailed information about farming duties an exemption might be granted from the Health Department following further investigations and recommendations by relevant departments.

We are aware that such exemptions are stringent especially for full-time farmers, so we have been trying to understand the situation better while liaising with relevant departments.
 
Following communication with various health and agri officials over the past few days, we have gathered the following list of issues and recommendations. These recommendations have been forwarded to the relevant departments.
 


Provisions necessary 

As far as we know, farmers have not been specifically notified, about the conditions they need to abide by in case of quarantine. Unfortunately, the quarantine situation may lead to a number of difficult situations. 

We are aware of the struggles faced in order to obtain an exemption, and wish to prevent similar situations from happening in the future. 

Not all farms are equipped with basic amenities and for public health reasons, a citizen with all the civil rights and dignity, of course, cannot go and live on a farm in such conditions. Some farmers live on the same premises, but not everyone is as lucky.

Recommendation: We appreciate that quarantine rules cannot be breached, and that an exemption is difficult to obtain, so we are advocating for sector-sensitive considerations, measures and awareness. 

Stakeholders and farmers alike need to be alerted about the current situation, and a corresponding action plan clearly set out to be followed when it becomes necessary.

Being unprepared is the worst possible scenario. 

 

Time window

An allocation of one hour a day is simply not enough to manage a whole farm, irrespective of the size of the holding/herd. Full-time farmers especially, spend more than 10 hours a day on average managing their farms and one cannot simply abandon farm operations. 

Many farmers manage their farms together with other family members, but others do not. If a farm has a workforce of say 3 persons, and suddenly the load is shared between just 2, there are surely several repercussions.

Recommendation: Since there are no freelance service providers who can replace their work (not even at a cost), we would like to ask whether a temporary skilled workforce funded by the Ministry can be set up to alleviate such situations. 


 
Location where quarantine needs to be carried out

Arable farmers, livestock breeders and farm managers working on mixed farms may encounter different situations. We believe that a case-by-case approach needs to be adopted together with a strong communication channel that needs to be established between the farmer and related government officials. 

The 111 helpline gives advice on the health aspects of such situations but not on the agri/veterinary/welfare side.

One must not forget that at the beginning of the pandemic, farmers were considered an important asset for the country, for food security reasons. Now that the second wave has hit, we still need to be very careful and fully support food producers, in all manners possible.

 

Transportation of feeds, live/dead animals

A farmer under quarantine cannot leave the farm (if he/she is carrying out the mandatory quarantine on the farm). Obtaining feeds, other resources and transporting live/dead animals might be complicated to avoid exposure with other persons.

If the farmer is not living on the farm throughout quarantine and is visiting the farm during limited hours as obliged by health authorities, this will likely pose difficulties coordinating deliveries, where delivery persons carrying feeds may not be readily available to carry feeds at 5am or after 10pm. 

Recommendation: Farmers need to be encouraged and advised to store sufficient resources for a period of 15 days on the farm, in case they are on quarantine.

In the case that an animal needs to be urgently transferred from one farm to another, or to the abattoir, farmers are suggesting that a temporary service is provided by the veterinary services.

 

Financial losses incurred

If a farmer neglects his crops/livestock, huge financial losses will result. Such losses need to be avoided at all costs. Farmers need to set up a contingency plan in case they cannot sell their products or losses are suffered during quarantine. 

Farmers are asking who will be responsible for such losses. 

Recommendation: All farmers need to be aware of what can happen and how to deal with such situations. A support fund needs to be set up in order for farmers to fall back on in case of need.




We shall be keeping our followers informed through the news section of our website and on MaYA Facebook page



To keep in touch, drop us a line on info@maya.org.mt.