A battle plan for ensuring global food supplies during the COVID-19 crisis

credit: FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero Cullen, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world on a crisis footing, with unprecedented actions to restrict movements and plans for radical deployment of public funds to combat the threat posed by a novel coronavirus that knows no boundaries. Success will entail coherent and robust plans for our food systems. FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero Cullen outlines a framework for how countries can think about and craft these plans.

As more countries adopt lockdown policies to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 crisis, is there a risk that we will run out of food?

The short answer is both yes and no. There is that risk, but we have plenty of ways to reduce its likelihood, and the sooner we adopt them the more we can avoid exacerbating the global health crisis. Right now, supermarket shelves remain well-stocked. But already we can see signs that pressures due to lockdowns are beginning to impact supply chains, such as the slowdown in the shipping industry. Disruptions, particularly in the area of logistics, could materialize in the coming months. Governments are rolling out large-scale campaigns against the coronavirus, and battle plans should include measures aimed at lessening the shocks to their food supply chains. These have to be kept alive, for everybody obviously and in particular for the most vulnerable, keeping in mind that the public health imperatives require everyone to collaborate and so must be possible for all. So the long answer, so to speak, is no because we can’t afford to make the mistakes that would exacerbate suffering now.

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