Food Security and COVID-19
World Bank Brief
August 31, 2020
Alarmed by a potential rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and organizations are mounting special efforts to keep agriculture safely running as an essential business, markets well supplied in affordable and nutritious food, and consumers still able to access and purchase food despite movement restrictions and income losses.
This page summarizes the evolving agriculture and food situation and provides links to World Bank and other resources. Updates are frequently posted on this page.
Global agricultural markets continue to remain stable as food trade has remained more resilient than overall trade. Global production levels for the three most widely consumed staples (rice, wheat and maize) are at or near all-time highs. However, the prices of certain cash crops — an important source of rural income — have been depressed by the slowing of global demand.
Given the status of global food supplies, export restrictions are unwarranted and could hurt food security in importing countries. The World Bank has joined other organizations in calling for collective action to keep food trade flowing between countries.
The primary risks to food security are at the country level: as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, disruptions in domestic food supply chains, other shocks affecting food production, and loss of incomes and remittances are creating strong tensions and food security risks in many countries. Despite stable global food prices, numerous countries are experiencing varying levels of food price inflation due to measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Food producers also face large losses on perishable and nutritious food as buyers have become limited and consumption patterns shift. Though food insecurity is by and large not driven by food shortages, disruptions to the supply of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, seeds or labor shortages could diminish next season’s crop. If farmers are experiencing acute hunger, they may also prioritize buying food today over planting seeds for tomorrow, raising the threat of food shortages later on.
Food security “hot spots” include:
:: fragile and conflict-affected states, where logistics and distribution are difficult even without morbidity and social distancing.
:: countries affected by multiple crises resulting from more frequent extreme weather events (floods, droughts) and pests such as the current locusts plague – the worst in decades— impacting food production in 23 countries.
:: the poor and vulnerable, including the 690 million people who were already chronically food insecure before the COVID-19 crisis impacted movement and incomes.
:: countries with significant currency depreciation, (driving up the cost of food imports) and countries seeing other commodity prices collapse (reducing their capacity to import food)…