James Emejo in Abuja
The Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Mr. Qu Dongyu, has said the restrictions of movement and basic aversion behaviour by workers amid the outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic may impede farming activities and discourage food processors from processing.
He said while there is currently no need for panic as there is enough food supply in the world to feed everyone, shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines and other input could affect agricultural production going forward.
The DG added that there’s an enormous risk that food may not be made available where it is needed as a result of the lockdowns currently witnessed in several parts of the world.
The FAO director-general, in a statement made available to THISDAY, said: “The COVID-19 outbreak, with all the accompanying closures and lockdowns, has created logistical bottlenecks that ricochet across the long value chains of the modern global economy.
“Closures of restaurants and less frequent grocery shopping diminish demand for fresh produce and fisheries products, affecting producers and suppliers, especially smallholder farmers, with long-term consequences for the world’s increasingly urbanised population, even in Manhattan or Manila.
“Uncertainty about food availability can induce policymakers to implement trade restrictive measures in order to safeguard national food security. Given the experience of the 2007-2008 global food price crisis, we know that such measures can only exacerbate the situation.
“Export restrictions put in place by exporting countries to increase food availability domestically could lead to serious disruptions in the world food market, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility.”
Dongyu said while every country faces its own challenges, the collaboration between governments and the full gamut of sectors and stakeholders is paramount, stressing that “we are experiencing a global problem that requires a global response.”
He said countries must ensure that food markets are functioning properly and that information on prices, production, consumption and stocks of food is available to all in real time.
According to him, this approach will reduce uncertainty and allow producers, consumers, traders and processors to make informed decisions as well as contain unwarranted panic behaviour in global food markets.
He said though the health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on some of the poorest countries are still unknown, “we can say with certainty that any ensuing food crisis as a result of poor policy making will be a humanitarian disaster that we can avert.
“We already have 113 million people experiencing acute hunger. In sub-Saharan Africa, a quarter of the population is undernourished. Any disruptions to food supply chains will intensify both human suffering and the challenge of reducing hunger around the world. We must, therefore, do everything possible not to let that happen.”