A Survey on COVID-19 Challenges and Responses among Nepalese Food Businesses
In March 2021, Food Enterprise Solutions (FES) began implementing its private sector food safety strategy in Nepal through Feed the Future Business Drivers for Food Safety (BD4FS), a project co-created with and funded by USAID. While implementing the BD4FS “Food Safety Situational Analysis,” the COVID-19 pandemic took a sharp turn for the worse in Nepal, almost completely shutting down the food system. In response, the Government of Nepal imposed preemptive lockdown and prohibitory orders beginning March 2020, which led to widespread cessation of economic activities. The impacts are pervasive, with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and associated informal workers, the poor and returnee migrants disproportionately affected. It led to market closures, supply chain disruptions and reduced demand. A Nepal Rastra Bank study found that the recovery in this sector is one of the slowest, currently operating at only 41% of pre-lockdown level. Currently, there are no studies looking explicitly at food commodities. This study is an attempt to take stock of the situation in that segment.
BD4FS developed and implemented a rapid survey of the COVID-19 impacts on food businesses to understand how and to what extent lockdown and prohibitory orders have impacted their key business parameters, such as demand, sales and costs. The survey also touched on the supply chain of the surveyed businesses, their finances, human resources and how they have coped with and addressed those challenges. The food businesses surveyed are in the Kathmandu and Chitwan corridors of Bagmati Province. The survey entailed consultation and interviews with food businesses, including wholesalers, retailers, processors, exporters and e-commerce, among others, in the Kathmandu valley mostly, and to a limited extent, in the Chitwan food corridor.