The unfolding COVID-19 crisis, its impact on food security
ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - July 9, 2020 - 12:00am

Still many areas are under lockdown and people in these communities have restricted access to the outside world up until now. And one of the essential needs that even at the beginning of the quarantine was impaired is their need for food, even more to quality foods that need to support and improve their immune system. Government provision is limited to staple like rice, sardines and the likes. And this condition is blatant especially among the financially challenged and disadvantaged sectors. We may have skipped one important celebration we do every year, going to the fourth month of our quarantine, the nutrition month. We still remind people of the need to eat healthy food, but at this time of the pandemic, what is the fundamental thing is food security, at least to make sure we’ve got enough to get us through these tough times.

Nevertheless, as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, disturbances in domestic food supply chains affecting food production, and loss of income and remittances are causing high tensions and threats to food security in many countries, the World Bank notes in its May 2020 paper. The World Bank also reports that labor shortages are beginning to affect manufacturers, processors, traders and trucking/logistics companies in food supply chains due to morbidity, movement restrictions, social distancing rules – particularly for food products that require workers to be in close proximity.

Around the same time, lack of income and remittances is reducing people’s ability to buy food and pay farmers for their output. The UN World Food Program has warned that, as a result, by the end of 2020, an estimated 265 million people will face acute food insecurity, up from 135 million before the crisis. Food producers also face large losses on perishable goods as buyers have become limited and traders stop engaging with farmers.

Measures to control or mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks are already affecting global food supply chains. Border restrictions and lockdowns are, for example, slowing harvests in some parts of the world, leaving millions of seasonal workers without livelihoods, while also constraining transport of food to markets. Meat processing plants and food markets are being forced to close in many locations due to serious

COVID-19 outbreaks among workers. As a result of supply chain instability and growing market demand, farmers have buried perishable produce or dumped milk. As a result, many urban center residents are now struggling to get access to fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat and fish.

Adopting effective food policy responses that include treating food as an “essential service” to keep food flowing and opening up specific food, trade and agricultural input processes to ensure that supply chains remain open and functional, integrating critical health and safety measures through food supply chain segments, helping the most vulnerable communities through safety net programs, complemented by food distributions in areas where supply chains are severely disrupted.

However, the sad truth remains that people in some depressed areas are more likely to die from hunger caused by the economic fallout of the pandemic than from the disease itself. Though we are still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic today, we are still asking how a better post-pandemic world can be created. As we consider addressing the world’s most critical needs, fixing our food systems needs to be at the top of the list.

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