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Daily CSR
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Industries Halted But AB InBev Supported Smallholder Farmers Amid COVID-19 Pandemic


AB InBev highlights its best practices as they “quickly and pragmatically responded” to the challenges faced by farmers in their production cycle at a time when the industry across the globe had come to a standstill.

Dailycsr.com – 18 August 2020 – Natural ingredients, such as “grain, hops, water and yeast”, are used to made beer, therefore, the “global brewer”, AB InBev has to depend directly on over twenty thousand farmers who live in thirteen countries and across five continents, for “high-quality crops” which will determine the end product at the company.
However, the pandemic caused by COVID-19 has left “massive impact on farmers” mainly the “rural smallholder farmers” for their operations are run by their family members with “limited access to resources, storage options and labor”. As a result, the growing uncertainties weighed on the farmers worrying about the sale of their crop as the “entire industries” had come to a standstill.
Interestingly, AB InBev made a commitment of providing financial empowerment, digital connectivity and skill training to “100%” of its direct farmers by the year of 2025. In the words of the global director of “Agricultural Innovation and Sustainability” at AB InBev, Katie Hoard:
“AB InBev has deep connections with our farmers and local communities. It’s essential that we meet their critical needs and safeguard the livelihoods of our farmers and their families to help them survive, and ultimately, rebound from the pandemic.” 
Beginning of 2020, the company ramped up efforts to strengthen its “smallholder farmer programs” in partnership with TechnoServe by connecting “small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs with private sector partners”. And TechnoServe’s director for “Strategic Initiatives”, Julian Wassenaar remarked:
“Through its long-standing relationships with farmers in its supply chain, AB InBev has been uniquely positioned to build upon its farmer networks as we work to reach those who are struggling during the pandemic”.
“Unrivaled access to data in the field has offered AB InBev a deep understanding of the challenges facing these farmers. Building on this, the company has been able to leverage its communications network to give farmers critical information on health, hygiene, and safe cultivation of their crops. This effort is especially critical during the pandemic as AB InBev is able to reach farmers that would be otherwise isolated due to disruptions in logistics and transportation. The company has used its network to fill a critical role in these rural communities and safeguard the livelihoods of farmers and their families.” 
Together, AB InBev and TechnoServe are working to help small-scale farmers to model plan based on “existing and potential challenges” besides providing “solutions and interventions” needed to address them. Likewise, when the “Mexican government temporarily suspended non-essential businesses on March 31”, Ab InBev stopped “brewing in the country”, while a barley farmer, Andrés Mazzocco Berra said:
“Perhaps beer is not an essential drink, but it´s linked to a production chain that our towns, Guanajuato and the Altiplano, rely on. Prohibiting the sale of beer in Mexico put the barley harvest – and our communities – at risk.”
However, the company kept up its commitment of purchasing their barley “at the originally promised price” besides ensuring “timely payments so that farmers had cash on hand to feed and protect their families, and plan financially for the next growing season”. And Berra added:
“Economic activity has been severely affected in the country due to COVID-19. When AB InBev purchased our harvest and we promptly received payment, it gave us much needed security and helped us minimize COVID-19’s impact to the agriculture supply chain and our community, setting us up for success in the next growing season.”
In India, on the other hand, COVID-19 knocked at the door at a time when the farmers were “ready to harvest” which has to be done within a short span of time including the collection, the sale and the transportation. However, during the lockdown farmers didn’t have “usual seasonal workers”, additionally “closed communities and industries” made it difficult for the farmers “to sell or trade their crop” and the lack of storage facility on site opened possibilities for “insect infestation” on the crop while “off-balanced moisture levels threatened the quality of the crops”.
However, AB InBev’s agronomists helped the farmers to conduct “a safe harvest” within the small window of time with “storage solutions” and “safety equipment” and a promise of purchasing their harvest. Lalchand Lumawat, one farmer fro India, recounts:m
“When we were not able to initially sell the crops due to the lockdown, the AB InBev teams regularly assured us that they would still purchase the crops, which gave us confidence and hope. They also provided masks and sanitizers to ensure our safety.”