Both lives and livelihoods are at risk from this pandemic.
Though in some countries the spread of the pandemic has been slowing down and cases are decreasing, in others, COVID-19 is resurging or continuing to spread quickly. This is still a global problem calling for a global response.
We know that it will eventually retreat, but we don’t know how fast this will happen. We also know that this shock is somewhat unusual as it affects significant elements of both food supply and demand.
We risk a looming food crisis unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.
Border closures, quarantines, and market, supply chain and trade disruptions are restricting people’s access to sufficient/diverse and nutritious sources of food, especially in countries hit hard by the virus or already affected by high levels of food insecurity.
But there is no need for the world to panic. Globally, there is enough food for everyone. Policy makers around the world need to be careful not to repeat the mistakes made during the 2007-08 food crisis, and turn this health crisis into an entirely avoidable food crisis.
FAO is particularly concerned about people’s access to food in the medium and long run. The significant slowdown of all economies of the world and specially of the most vulnerable ones – as unemployment rates have risen, and COVID-19’s economic impacts will be felt more – will make countries, especially food import-dependent countries, struggle to have the needed resources to buy food. In turn, as demand for food will decrease over the next months, prices should go down in 2020, and this will have a negative impact on farmers and the agricultural sector.
As of now, disruptions have been minimal as food supply has been adequate and markets have been stable so far. However, we have already seen challenges in terms of logistics bottlenecks (not being able to move food from point A to point B), which have by mid-April largely resolved; and likely, there is less food of high-value commodities (i.e. fruits and vegetables) being brought to market.
As of May, we still expect disruptions in the food supply chains especially in the high value commodities (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, milk, etc.). For example: restrictions of movement, as well as basic aversion behaviour by workers, may impede farmers from farming and food processors – who handle the vast majority of agricultural products – from processing. Shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines and other input could affect agricultural production. Closures of restaurants and less frequent grocery shopping diminish demand for fresh produce and fisheries products, affecting producers and suppliers. Sectors in agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture are particularly affected by restrictions on tourism, closure of restaurants and café and school meals suspension.
In any scenario, the most affected will be the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population, (including migrants, the displaced, and those hit by conflict). Countries in protracted crises also suffer from underinvestment in public health, which will amplify the pandemic’s impacts.