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41. Global Supply Chain of Fruits and Vegetables Under Lockdown

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According to a report on May 16, 2020, imported fruits such as bananas and mangoes are becoming scarce at markets in Japan due to the spread of COVID-19. It is said that the pandemic has caused delays in harvesting due to lockdowns in the production area, reduction in commercial flights and decline in cargo volumes. Fresh foods and high-value-added agricultural products such as fruits and vegetables are transported in a space called the bellyhold of passenger aircraft along with the baggage. It seems that transportation costs have risen and purchasing costs have increased by about 20% due to a series of reductions and suspensions of international flights from various countries. The shipments of Mexican avocado, American lemon, American cherry from May to June, and South African grapefruit are expected to be affected (Yomiuri Online).

According to an article in the World Economic Forum, around 40% of global air cargo is currently transported in the bellyhold ofpassenger aircraft. At the “normal” time, the airline network spread all over the world played a considerable part in freight transportation, enabling efficient and smooth logistics in the global supply chain. However, at present, the ratio of passenger planes that can be divided into cargo has fallen sharply from the “normal” state, and the cargo capacity has dropped significantly. The remaining 60% of air cargo is usually carried by dedicated freighters, but these basically follow important routes via hub airports, so it seems that it does not reach the comprehensive network of passenger aircrafts.

The BBC World Service featured the impact of lockdowns on the global supply chain. In recent years, vegetables and fruits produced in South America and emerging countries in Africa are being exported to Europe and America owning to the development of global supply chain. Argentine blackberries, Chilean blueberries and Zambian snap peas are now available in Western supermarkets. However, the supply of these products has become expensive due to the increase in freight rates due to the reduction of passenger aircraft under the  COVID-19 (As mentioned in Pick Up 40, EU is the largest market for fruits and vegetables in Africa, and demand for agricultural products, including avocados, citrus fruits in South Africa, and vegetables in Morocco, fell sharply). Logistics supply chain expert Richard Wilding, a professor at Warwick University, said that in the “new normal” in the post- COVID-19 era, the global rationalization of choice might occur, as production and processing could be brought to nearer to consumption (nearshoring), while labor is replaced by machines through  mechanization, under which emerging producers can suffer.


BBC World Service. How do you feed a world in lockdown? 

World Economic Forum. Coronavirus and aviation: Why is air cargo grounded when the world needs it most?  April 30, 2020. 

Yomiuri Online News「バナナやマンゴーなど海外産フルーツに品薄感…産地封鎖で収穫停滞、航空機減便も影響」2020.5.16. 

Pick Up 40. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) ー COVID-19 Response Targeting African Agriculture and the Rural Poor


Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Research Strategy Office)