DAKAR (Reuters) – In ordinary times, it takes Boureima Diawara two or three days to truck his mangoes the 1,200 km (745 miles) from southern Mali to Senegal’s seaside capital Dakar.
But since coronavirus restrictions came in, some shipments have taken more than twice as long. After struggling with border delays and a dawn-to-dusk curfew in Senegal, Diawara’s workers have ending up dumping sacks of rotten fruit in landfill.
Trading across borders in West Africa, with its rutted roads and bribe-hungry police, has never been easy. But restrictions imposed by governments in response to COVID-19 are crippling the trade in perishable goods and livestock like never before, according to commercial data and interviews with traders.
“If the trucks stop, the produce spoils,” said Diawara, whose traders’ collective slashed the number of trucks it runs to Dakar from up to nine a day to only one or two.
The breakdowns in trade are contributing to fears of a spiralling food crisis. The United Nations says the pandemic could cause the number of West Africans living in food insecurity to double to 43 million in the next six months.
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