Food Security and COVID-19: a list of resources assembled by the World Bank

Focus Region:
Global
Focus Topic:
Agricultural Value Chains / Agri-Businesses
Nutrition / Food Systems
Market / Trade

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.

 

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.

OVERVIEW

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 G20ASEAN 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:

  • 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 and pests. Example:  the current locusts plague – the worst in decades—is severely impacting food security in 23 countries.
  • the poor and vulnerable, including the more than 820 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.

WORLD BANK SUPPORT

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:

  • In Angola, the World Bank-financed Commercial Agriculture Development Project is helping farmer cooperatives and small and mid-sized agricultural enterprises expand and improve their operations to meet the needs of local communities during the pandemic.
  • In India, women’s self-help groups, supported under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission co-financed by the World Bank, mobilized to meet shortages in masks and sanitizers, run community kitchens and restore fresh food supplies, provide food and support to vulnerable and high-risk families, provide financial services in rural areas, and disseminate COVID-19 advisories among rural communities. These self-help groups, built over a period of 15 years, tap the skills of about 62 million women across India. [add link]
  • In Liberia, we’re working with the government to ensure food supply chains are sustained. Although disruptions in the food supply chain are still minimal, logistical challenges are emerging. The Bank is responding by fast tracking certain activities and activating a Contingency Emergency Response Component (about $7.5 million) through Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) so the government can meet immediate food needs of vulnerable people, keep domestic supply chains moving, and support smallholder farmers to increase food production.
  • In Pakistan, more than 18,000 mainly female-headed households will receive direct livelihood support through World Bank-financed projects to develop kitchen gardens, small scale livestock and agricultural activities.
  • In Tajikistan, the existing Targeted Social Assistance system will provide time-bound cash transfers to food-insecure households with children under the age of 2 to mitigate the effects of increases in food prices and to protect children’s nutrition.

We’re working with countries to help them adopt appropriate food policy responses. These include:

  • treating food as an ‘essential service’ to keep food moving and opening special procedures (‘green channels’) for food, trade and agricultural inputs to ensure supply chains are kept open and functional.
  • incorporating necessary health and safety measures along segments of the food supply chain.
  • supporting the most vulnerable populations via safety net programs, complemented by food distributions in areas where supply chains are severely disrupted.

LOCUSTS

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.

PREVENTION

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.

SOURCE:
World Bank
COVER PHOTO:
©PARM/Carlos Acosta