Immediate impact of COVID-19 pandemic on farming systems in Central America and Mexico
CONTEXT: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all sectors and human activities around the World. OBJECTIVE: In this article we present a first attempt to understand the immediate impact of COVID-19 and the sanitary measures taken by governments on farming systems in Central America and Mexico (CAM). METHODS: Through a review of information generated in these initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic (webinars, blogs, electronic publications, media) and 44 interviews with key informants across the region, we have identified the main impacts felt by different types of farming systems in the region. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: From corporate agricultural production systems, to small and medium scale entrepreneurs and smallholder subsistence farm households, all types of farming systems were impacted, more or less severely, by the different measures implemented by governments such as reduced mobility, closure of public and private venues and restrictions in borders. Larger corporate farming systems with vertical market integration and high level of control or coordination within the supply chain, and smallholder or subsistence farming systems with important focus on production for self-consumption and little external input use, were both relatively less impacted and showed greater adaptive capacity than the medium and small entrepreneurial farming systems dependent on agriculture as their primary income and with less control over the upstream and downstream parts of their supply chain. All types of farming systems implemented a series of mechanisms to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic including the development of alternative value chains, food and agricultural products delivery systems and the exponential use of digital means to communicate and maintain the viability of the different agricultural systems. Collective action and organization of farmers also proved to be an important coping mechanism that allowed some farmers to acquire inputs and deliver outputs in the context of restricted mobility, price volatility, and general uncertainty. Some features of the CAM region played an important role in mediating the impact of COVID-19 and associated sanitary measures. We identify as particularly relevant the nature of agricultural exports, the current structure of the agricultural sector, the diversified livelihood strategies of rural households, and the importance of mobility for rural livelihoods. SIGNIFICANCE: The results presented focus only in the immediate effect of COVID-19 pandemic and the mechanisms implemented by farmers in the first months. Whether these impacts and response mechanisms will result in a transformation of the farming systems towards greater resilience and sustainability is still an open question.