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Food Security and COVID-19

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Source: World Bank
Alarmed by a potential rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and organizations are mounting special efforts to keep agriculture safely running as an essential business, markets well supplied with affordable and nutritious food, and consumers able to access and purchase food despite movement restrictions and income losses.

Overview

Global agricultural markets remain stable as food trade has remained more resilient than overall trade. Global production levels for the three most widely consumed staples (rice, wheat and maize) are at or near all-time highs and trade at prices that are close to their January 2020 levels. Given the status of global food supplies, export restrictions are unwarranted and could hurt food security in importing countries. The World Bank has joined other organizations in calling for collective action to keep food trade flowing between countries.

The primary risks to food security are at the country level: as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, disruptions in domestic food supply chains, other shocks affecting food production, and loss of incomes and remittances are creating strong tensions and food security risks in many countries. Despite stable global food prices, numerous countries are experiencing varying levels of food price inflation at the retail level, reflecting supply disruptions due to COVID-19, currency devaluations and other factors. Rising food prices have a greater impact in low- and middle-income countries since a larger share of income is spent on food in these countries than in high-income countries.

Higher retail prices, combined with reduced incomes, mean more and more households are having to cut down on the quantity and quality of their food consumption, with potentially lasting impacts on nutrition and health. The U.N. World Food Programme has warned that an additional 130 million people could face acute food insecurity by the end of 2020, on top of the 135 million people who were already acutely food insecure before the crisis, because of income and remittance losses. Rapid phone surveys done by the World Bank in a number of countries confirm the widespread impact of COVID-19 on household incomes and food security.

Food producers also face large losses on perishable and nutritious food as consumption patterns shift towards cheaper staples. Though current food insecurity is by and large not driven by food shortages, supply disruptions and inflation affecting key agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds, or prolonged labor shortages could diminish next season’s crop. If farmers are experiencing acute hunger, they may also prioritize consuming seeds as food today over planting seeds for tomorrow, raising the threat of food shortages later on.

Reports have been made that since COVID there is not only food insecurity but food shortages. How important are sustainable food growing in the face of food insecurity and shortages during a pandemic? Are your food sources sustainable? Do you grow any foods? Why do you think gardens have become more popular during COVID 19?

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