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Speeches & Transcripts April 21, 2020

Statement by Mari Pangestu, Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships, The World Bank at the Virtual Meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2020— Mari Pangestu, Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships, The World Bank delivered the following remarks today at the Virtual Meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers:

Excellencies, Minister Al-Fadli, Ministers of Environment, Water and Agriculture of Saudi Arabia, and International Organization Partners.

We are living in unprecedented times. 

Much of the fight against the COVID 19 and its impacts are beyond our control. 

One of the dire impacts, that is of great concern, is that the poorest and most vulnerable countries are being threatened by food insecurity, as their foreign exchange earnings to import food and incomes plummet, as threats to food supplies rise due to food export restrictions, and as supply chains break down. 

But unlike COVID 19, the issue of responding to one of the dire impacts of the pandemic, that is food insecurity and malnutrition, is within our control through concerted national actions and international cooperation.

The G20 can play a significant role as it did in 2011 with the G20 Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture, and by providing additional funding to address structural issues around food production and availability.  It can do so again, including increasing funding to agriculture research consortiums, such as the CGIAR.

We have four key messages for policy responses, which form part of what we are working with governments on, within the World Bank Group’s $160 billion assistance to COVID 19 response over the next 15 months.

Concerted national actions

1.     To facilitate the movement of food, agriculture inputs and labor.  We have to ensure that the supply chains for food continue to flow and function safely, including considering food, agriculture inputs and food-related logistics as essential so they are prioritized; providing clear guidance on health and safety measures for food system workers; explore innovative use of technology; and sharing lessons and data. 

We are working with governments and international partners to closely monitor domestic food and agricultural supply chains and how the loss of employment and income is impacting people’s ability to buy food.  We are building on existing projects and deploying short and long-term financing to help countries provide social safety nets, preserve functioning of supply chains and ensure that farmers can meet the demand of local consumers during the pandemic.  Innovative approaches include leveraging community-based groups to distribute food and using digital technologies to monitor harvest conditions and link producers with consumers.

2.     Social protection programs for the poorest and most vulnerable: ensuring people have money to eat and/or can access basic food supplies. A large percentage of the workforce in developing countries, in some of the poorest countries up to 80%, are producers as well as net consumers in the agriculture and food sectors.  Thus, prioritizing this sector will achieve both protection of livelihoods and food security.

3.     In the medium term, build longer-term resilience and prevention, including in the most vulnerable countries for a One Health Approach.  That is ensuring that there is investment in the animal health and veterinary systems to prevent these types of infectious diseases, and strengthen resilience of food systems.  Out of the first 25 projects approved for COVID-19 related financing in the World Bank Group’s first phase response, 11 include One Health components

We are committed to helping countries prevent the next disease from emerging and be better prepared when risks materialize by strengthening the resilience of their food systems. World Bank experience with the Avian Influenza shows that cross-sectoral, coordinated investments in human, environmental and animal health (“One Health” approach) are a cost-effective way to manage risks and control diseases at the source. In India, for example, the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project will improve disease surveillance systems in humans and animals and health information systems across the country. 

We are also working with partners in the UN and national governments to deliver immediate and long-term support to respond to a crisis-within-a crisis: the worst locusts plague in decades. Emergency support has already been provided in Kenya, where $13.7 million has been used to set up six base stations and deploy surveillance aircraft to coordinate locust surveillance efforts across affected counties. Emergency financing has also been provided to help affected communities in Djibouti control and cope with the outbreak.

Finally international cooperation is key to:

4.     Refrain from imposing export restrictions; and avoid unnecessary import barriers and build up of stocks.  Global grain production and stocks are at near all-time highs, making restrictions and building up national stocks unnecessary.  Let’s not repeat what happened in 2008 when trade restrictions amplified world food price spikes and caused 130-155 million more people to fall below the poverty line, especially in the most vulnerable countries. 

The G20 accounts for a large share of food trade and hence its actions will have significant global impact. 

Together we can ensure concerted actions to adopt the right policies and programs to keep food systems safe and secure, as well as moving essential foods, within and between countries.  Together we can win the battle against food insecurity and malnutrition.   

We welcome the G20’s continued leadership on this important issue.  The World Bank Group stands ready to work with all of you in tackling this challenge.

Thank you. 



Joint Statement on COVID-19 Impacts on Food Security and Nutrition