The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced nations worldwide to implement unprecedented social measures to stem the rapid spread of the virus. In a Policy Forum, David Laborde and colleagues discuss how the economic fallout from these efforts and impacts on food supply chains worldwide puts global food security at risk.
Laborde et al. argue that these new threats need to be acknowledged and addressed by governments worldwide to prevent the COVID-19 health crisis from becoming a global food crisis as well.
According to the authors, COVID-19's most direct impacts on food security stem from the economic damage associated with the extreme measures designed to contain the virus, which has caused many around the world to lose their incomes and ability to buy food - particularly for the world's most poverty-stricken populations.
What's more, disruptions to agricultural supply, production, and distribution of foods due to labor shortages, widespread industry closures, and restrictions on the movement of people and goods have placed further strain on the global food system. To address these emerging threats to global food security, Laborde et al. suggest that governments of both rich and poor nations should first focus on ways to provide income support to protect food access for their most vulnerable citizens.
Novel strategies to enact safe social distancing in ways that facilitate food production and trade and allow for the movement of food-sector workers could also minimize disruptions to food systems and prevent looming food shortages as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.
Laborde, D., et al. (2020) COVID-19 risks to global food security. Science. doi.org/10.1126/science.abc4765.