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.
Global markets for food staples are well supplied and prices are generally stable (see Commodity Markets Outlook for more details). Global production levels for the three most widely consumed staples (rice, wheat and maize) are at or near all-time highs.
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. There are encouraging signs that countries are heeding the lessons of past food price crises, with Agriculture Ministers from the G20, ASEAN countries and Latin American and Caribbean agreeing on the need to keep global food markets open and refrain from imposing new trade barriers so that food is not lacking.
However, as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, disruptions in domestic food supply chains and other shocks affecting food production and affordability are creating strong tensions and food security risks in many countries.
Labor shortages (due to morbidity, movement restrictions, social distancing rules) are starting to impact producers, processors, traders and trucking/logistics companies in food supply chains – particularly for food products that require workers to be in close proximity. At the same time, loss of income and jobs is reducing people’s ability to buy food and compensate farmers for their production. The United Nations World Food Programme has warned that an estimated 265 million people could face acute food insecurity by the end of 2020, up from 135 million people before the crisis.
Food security “hot spots” include:
At the country level, the World Bank Group is working with governments and international partners to closely monitor domestic food and agricultural supply chains and how the loss of employment and income is impacting people’s ability to buy food.
We’re building on existing projects and deploying short and long-term financing. Examples:
We’re working with countries to help them adopt appropriate food policy responses. These include:
We’re also working with partners in the United Nations and national governments to deliver immediate and long-term support to respond to a crisis-within-a crisis: the worst locust outbreak in decades. Our support will help hard-hit farmers and rural communities control locust swarms, withstand the dual crises of COVID19 and locusts, and get money into people’s pockets and equipment into farmers hands to recover, including through cash transfers, seed and fodder packages and other social safety nets.
We’re committed to helping countries prevent the next disease from emerging and be better prepared when risks materialize.
World Bank experience with the Avian Influenza shows that cross-sectoral, coordinated investments in human, environmental and animal health (“One Health” approach) are a cost-effective way to manage risks and control diseases at the source. Over 70% of emerging infectious diseases (EID) in humans have their source in animals. Transmission of pathogens from animals to humans and EIDs are increasing in a rapidly changing environment, with deforestation, land-use change and rapid population growth amplifying the exposure of humans to diseases carried by animals.
Under the first COVID-19 package of World Bank Group financing, countries are able to invest in longer-term prevention, such as strengthened veterinary services, disease surveillance and food safety. Out of the first 25 projects approved for WB financing, 11 include One Health components. In India, for example, the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project will improve disease surveillance systems in humans and animals and health information systems across the country.