Knowledge Center

FES is a learning organization that leverages research and analysis to identify food systems constraints and develop practical approaches that businesses can adopt.

Seafood is a critical source of nutrition in Senegal, especially among populations with low incomes. Post-catch processing, distribution and retailing are also a source of employment and income: in addition to fresh seafood sold near the point of catch, a significant amount gets processed (salted and smoked) and sold further inland and cross-border to neighboring countries. This important commodity for Senegal’s food security comes with important public health and food safety challenges. Many handling practices along the supply chain – cleaning, smoking, salting, drying, transporting and retailing – can contribute to loss of potential nutrients for consumers as well as losses of income and profit to businesses. In addition, poor food safety practices set the stage for transmission of food borne pathogens.

The current coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is a fluid situation that is fueling a livelihoods crisis in both developed and emerging economies. Globally, consumers are concerned about the safety of their food and the risk of potential contagion. Though COVID-19 is a respiratory infection transmitted typically from person to person through direct contact, food systems are likely to be negatively impacted as they include human as well as surface transmission through critical actors including food producers, processors, transporters, warehouses, wholesale and retail food providers, and, of course, the consumer. 

The term “productivity” in agriculture typically refers to the cost efficiency of crop yields per unit of land, or the ratio of outputs, or yields, to inputs. But with so much of the food produced being lost to spoilage or damage before it gets to consumers in developing economies, we need a new definition of productivity. We must focus on the whole system that moves food from the farm to the consumer. 

Food safety is everyone’s business – and it’s the businesses that make up food systems that are the cornerstone for providing safe food. Today's food systems are increasingly more global, diverse and complex, involving an array of businesses from subsistence farming to multinational food companies. Everyone eats – therefore, everyone relies on local and global food systems. 

At this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on the most vulnerable populations and on food supply chains has mushroomed into a global concern. Senegal is no exception. 

Farm products pass through many hands on their way to consumers. Some are sold closer to the point of production in village markets, whereas some move through complex systems of aggregators, transporters, storage operators, and retailers, on their way to small towns and urban centers. As it moves through this system, food is susceptible to contamination and spoilage, resulting in seriously negative impacts on health, nutrition, economic development, and general well-being.

Local businesses within this system – micro, small, and medium- sized food enterprises (SMEs) – have the potential, however, to substantially reduce these negative effects by adopting better food safety standards and practices.