UN Warns Coronavirus Could Threaten World Food Supplies ‘Within Weeks’
The United Nations has warned that countries must not pursue protectionist policies during the Covid-19 global pandemic as such steps could lead to global food shortages. The warning comes as many countries are increasing restrictions.
Maximo Torero, chief economist of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said that shortages of workers to bring in the harvest combined with protectionist measures to maintain domestic food supplies could be a recipe for disaster.
“The worst that can happen is that governments restrict the flow of food,” Torero said.
“All measures against free trade will be counterproductive. Now is not the time for restrictions or putting in place trade barriers. Now is the time to protect the flow of food around the world.”
We have ample food supplies. But protectionist measures by governments during the #coronavirus can trigger massive food shortages. Let’s avoid this! Keep the global trade open; keep #foodsupplychains alive. My interview with @fionaharvey of @guardian: https://t.co/JBRv1Nv3mE @FAO
— Maximo Torero (@MaximoTorero) March 26, 2020
Torero encouraged countries not to restrict the export of food, as some countries have already started to do implement similar measures. In particular, wheat exports have already been affected by Coronavirus restrictions and the situation could worsen if Russia, the world’s largest exporter of wheat, moves to follow suit.
“Trade barriers will create extreme volatility,” Torero warned.
“We need to be careful not to break the food value chain and the logistics or we will be looking at problems with fresh vegetables and fruits soon,” he said. “Fruit and vegetables are also very labor intensive, if the labor force is threatened because people can’t move then you have a problem.”
The ongoing outbreak of the virus will have as yet unforeseen consequences and any changes in the world food supply are likely to affect the planet’s poorest.