Global COVID-19 lockdowns boost urban farming

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed renewed focus on the importance of home-grown produce and urban farming around the world.
Photo: Pixabay

Lockdown restrictions in many countries around the world due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) global pandemic have resulted in the growing trend of people growing fruit and vegetables at home.

In recent weeks, international media reports have highlighted panic-buying among consumers responding to the global health crisis, resulting in empty supermarket shelves.

However, there has also reportedly been a marked increase in the purchase of seeds to grow fresh produce.

This trend could provide a potentially lasting boost to the global urban farming movement.

Commenting on this shift in consumer behaviour, landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom, who designed Asia’s largest urban rooftop farm in Bangkok, Thailand, said:

“More people are thinking about where their food comes from, how easily it can be disrupted, and how to reduce disruptions”.

Dr Jill Edmondson, environmental scientist at the University of Sheffield in the UK, told Horticulture Week that: “At the moment, the UK is utterly dependent on complex international supply chains for the vast majority of our fruit and half of our vegetables, but our research suggests there is more than enough space to grow what we need on our doorstep”.

About 16% of fruit and 53% of vegetables sold in the UK were domestically grown, and a move towards urban farming could significantly improve food security in the region, she said.

In Singapore, where more than 90% of the city-state’s food was imported, urban farming, including vertical and rooftop farms, was also increasing in popularity.

According to Reuters, Ang Wei Neng, a MP in Singapore, said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, “it would be wise for us to think of how to invest in home-grown food”.

Also speaking to Reuters, Allan Lim, chief executive of ComCrop, a commercial urban farm in Singapore, said the pandemic was a reminder that disruptions to food supplies could take place at any time.

“It has definitely sparked more interest in local produce. Urban farms can be a shock absorber during disruptions such as this.”