Pandemic a threat to global food supply: FAO

Supply chains are the weakest link and require massive collaboration

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says COVID-19 is a threat to global food security that must be mitigated by ensuring supply chains are not disrupted.

Agriculture ministers from G20 countries held a joint meeting, where FAO director general Qu Dongyu said preserving access to safe food and nutrition is an essential health response to the pandemic.

“We need to collaborate with every actor in the supply chain, build public-private partnerships and promote innovation,” Qu said in a press release.

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The call was convened by Saudi Arabia, the country currently holding the rotating G20 presidency.

In her statement to the group, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to ensure the continued movement of agri-food products and inputs amongst the G20 countries.

According to her office, she also “encouraged members to be transparent and mindful of trade rules when adopting domestic measures to address the crisis.”

Qu urged G20 agriculture ministers to “include long-term goals in their policy framework,” according to an FAO press release.

“The crisis opens an opportunity to accelerate food system transformation,” Qu said, noting e-commerce tools as an example. “New business models are needed. It is the time to speed up e-commerce in agriculture and food systems across the globe.”

In Canada, there has been a rapid increase in the number of people shopping for groceries online.

Qu’s comments came after the G20 ministers of agriculture adopted a statement reaffirming trade of agricultural goods continues during the pandemic.

According to a recently released report from the World Trade Organization (WTO), 80 countries and customs territories have introduced export prohibitions as a result of the pandemic.

Three of the 13 WTO member countries (or 39 if EU members are counted individually) have notified the organization of export restrictions on foodstuffs.

FAO was joined by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Bank and the World Food Program (WFP) in making a statement on the impact of food security and nutrition the pandemic is having.

“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 co-ordinated across the world, including by the G20 and beyond, to limit impacts, end the pandemic, and prevent its recurrence,” read a joint statement from the organizations.

“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.”

About the author

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D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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