Global food crisis looms

In April, the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises, released by the United Nations, estimated that 400 000 people in Namibia were severely food insecure, while 800 000 were in a stressed food situation.

29 June 2020 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



The world is facing an impending food emergency of unknown, but likely very large proportions.

This warning is contained in a report released this month by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which stated that almost 45 million people were pushed into acute food insecurity since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises, released by the United Nations, estimated that 400 000 people in Namibia were severely food insecure, while 800 000 were in a stressed food situation.

The pandemic and measures to curb it may result in U$8.5 trillion (N$146.8 trillion) being shaved off the global economy in the next two years, according to estimates cited in the FAO report, titled Policy Brief: The Impact of Covid-19 on Food Security and Nutrition.

“Conflict, natural disasters and the arrival of pests and plagues on a transcontinental scale all preceded the coronavirus and serve as additional stresses in many contexts. But there are also deep structural problems in the way our food systems function, which we can no longer ignore,” the report said.

It warned this will not be an emergency akin to the food crisis of 2008 or local emergencies that have resulted principally from natural disasters and human conflict during the last five decades.

Namibia has been battling prolonged periods of drought over the past few years, with the drought of 2019 having been one of the most devastating.

Several regions in the country have also recently been faced with plagues of locusts.

“So far this year, global food markets remain robust, with abundant stocks of most staples, following a good harvest in 2019,” the report said.



Shrinkage of food supply

The report added that greater threats to food security and nutrition are likely through channels such as a collapse in global demand for internationally produced agri-food products, growing disruptions to local food markets and increasing food access issues due to the loss of critical income sources.

The combined impacts could be a shrinkage of global and especially local food supply in many countries in the second half of 2020, with resulting price rises and food access issues.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 820 million people were already identified as chronically food insecure in 2019.

The World Food Programme estimated that an additional 130 million people could fall into this category by the end of the year.



Targeted measures

The report added that as countries continue to roll-out sizable relief and stimulus packages, there is a high risk that they will not reach the most vulnerable.

The focus should be on targeted measures that alleviate liquidity constraints on vulnerable firms and households, it stated. This is especially true for poor people in rural areas, who may require specific tailoring of these packages to meet their unique liquidity needs.

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