FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank on the occasion of the Extraordinary G20 Agriculture Minister’s Meeting
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2020— The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic loss of human life across the world and presents an unprecedented challenge with deep social and economic consequences, including compromising food security and nutrition. Responses need to be well coordinated across the world, including by the G20 and beyond, to limit impacts, end the pandemic, and prevent its recurrence.
The pandemic is already affecting the entire food system. Restrictions on movement within and across countries can hinder food-related logistic services, disrupt entire food supply chains and affect the availability of food. Impacts on the movement of agricultural labor and on the supply of inputs will soon pose critical challenges to food production, thus jeopardizing food security for all people, and hit especially hard people living in the poorest countries.
Agriculture and its food-related logistic services should be considered as essential. Increased efforts are needed to ensure that food value chains function well and promote the production and availability of diversified, safe and nutritious food for all. In doing this, it is necessary to give precedence to the health of consumers and workers, adhering to safety measures, such as testing, physical distancing and other hygienic practices.
Currently, the world food market is well supplied and all countries, particularly those with prominent trade shares, need to ensure that it remains a stable, transparent and reliable source of food. During the 2007-08 food price crisis, panic-driven policy responses, such as export bans and rapid escalation in food stock procurement through imports exacerbated market disruptions.
While food supplies were tighter because of weather shocks globally in 2007-08, this behavior stretches the balance between global food supply and demand, increasing price volatility and ultimately contributing to it. These immediate impacts proved extremely damaging for low-income food-import dependent countries, and to the efforts of humanitarian organizations to procure supplies.
Countries need to work together to strengthen cooperation during this pandemic that is affecting all regions of the world. It is important to ensure that policies, such as short-term measures to restrict trade, do not distort global markets.
Collective action is needed to ensure that markets are well-functioning, and that timely and reliable information on market fundamentals is available to all. This will reduce uncertainty and allow producers, consumers, traders and processors to make informed production and trade decisions and contain panic behavior in global markets.
The Agricultural Market Information System – a G20 initiative that combines the expertise of ten International Organizations with the information provided by countries with a high share in world food trade – is monitoring world supply and price developments.
The devastating economic impacts of COVID-19 reinforce the need for investments that prevent future outbreaks of such infectious diseases, recognizing the interconnections between people, animals, plants and their shared environment – the One Health approach. Continued attention is necessary strengthen the resilience of food systems to such disease outbreaks but also to other shocks.
As the pandemic slows down economies, access to food will be negatively affected by income reductions and loss of employment as well as availability of food in local markets. Efforts should focus on supporting access to food for the poor and the vulnerable and those whose income is most affected. Implementing adequate social protection measures, such as cash transfers, and investing in early recovery efforts in response to COVID-19 is critical to saving both lives and livelihoods. Ensuring that these measures reach everyone will be key to avoid further spread of poverty and hunger.
Countries with existing humanitarian crises are particularly exposed to the effects of the pandemic. Its effects could be even stronger in those countries that are already facing exceptional emergencies with direct consequences for agriculture including due to ongoing or emerging conflict and climate shocks or desert locust outbreaks.
The pandemic is likely to have significant repercussions on the delivery of humanitarian and recovery assistance. Maintaining ongoing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups and adapting to potential COVID-19 impacts is critical. Investment is needed to accelerate recovery efforts and build resilience of vulnerable populations, coordinating our efforts with all partners including with the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19.
Decisive collective action is needed now to ensure that this pandemic does not threaten food security and nutrition, and to improve resilience to future shocks. On this, we highlight the 2021 Food Systems Summit as an opportunity to drive transformative action and contribute to the UN Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030.