“Covid-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions of people whose lives are already hanging by a thread. It is a deadly blow to millions more who can only eat if they have an income. Blockades and the global economic downturn have already decimated their savings. All it takes is one more shock to push them into the abyss.” The words of Arif Hussain, chief economist of the World Food Programme (WPF), represent well the difficult conditions reached by many businesses in 2020. Although the food sector has shown an increase in turnover in Italy, the pandemic has decimated many businesses, especially in the poorest countries on the planet, opening deep wounds in the spending capacity of a growing number of individuals.
In fact, 265 million people face severe food insecurity in 2020, double the 135 million in 2019. Reduced purchasing power coupled with generally rising prices is exposing many citizens to cut back on the quantity and quality of their food consumption.
As reported by the World Bank numerous countries are experiencing high food price inflation at the retail level, reflecting lingering supply disruptions due to Covid-19 social distancing measures, currency devaluation, and other factors. Rising food prices have a greater impact on people in low-middle-income countries since they spend a larger share of their income on food than high-income countries.
Another opinion comes from the World Farmer’s Organization that has reported that the pandemic has increased the risk of food insecurity in three main ways.
– First, COVID-19 has devastated the labor market. Lockdowns, movement restrictions, and reduced demand have resulted in widespread job losses and pay cuts.
– Second, COVID-19 has disrupted both global and domestic agri-food supply chains and Lockdown measures have led to agricultural labor shortages in many regions, including Europe, East Asia, and parts of India.
– Third, COVID-19 has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and inequalities in agriculture. COVID-19 complicates agricultural production for regions already struggling because of poor climate conditions, diseases, and pests, such as the Asian Swine Flu, the locust plague, and drought.
Getting out of this situation will require a comprehensive plan to respond to the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. National governments will need to: strengthen and expand social protection programs to address poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition; sustain food production, trade, distribution, and consumption; support national health systems through improved supply chains, data collection and targeted nutrition services for the most vulnerable; and provide alternatives to school feeding where educational activities have been suspended in the wake of the pandemic.