`Some Countries Impose Restrictions on Exports of Food Commodities

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Some Countries Impose Restrictions on Exports of Food Commodities

Mar. 27, 2020
Costas Vasilopoulos

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In the wake of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, some coun­tries have imposed a ban on exports of raw mate­ri­als and pri­mary com­modi­ties, threat­en­ing the pro­duc­tion of essen­tial food prod­ucts in other depen­dent coun­tries.

Bloomberg busi­ness news agency reported that Viet­nam, the third-largest exporter of rice in the world, put all new export con­tracts on hold, while Kaza­khstan has cur­rently banned its out­go­ing freights of wheat flour, pota­toes, sugar and car­rots.

Ser­bia ceased exports of sun­flower oil and is also con­sid­er­ing putting a curb on more prod­ucts, whereas Rus­sia, one of the world’s largest gra­naries, is plan­ning a post­pone­ment of its ship­ments abroad.

We’re start­ing to see this hap­pen­ing already — and all we can see is that the lock­down is going to get worse,” Tim Ben­ton, research direc­tor in emerg­ing risks at Chatham House think tank in Lon­don, said.

If gov­ern­ments are not work­ing col­lec­tively and coop­er­a­tively to ensure there is a global sup­ply, if they’re just putting their nations first, you can end up in a sit­u­a­tion where things get worse.”

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Ann Berg, a vet­eran agri­cul­tural trader and inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant, warned that the extreme mea­sures enforced world­wide by gov­ern­ments could spillover to food pol­icy.

You could see wartime rationing, price con­trols and domes­tic stock­pil­ing,” Berg told Bloomberg.

The news agency nev­er­the­less noted that there are no sure signs” of a generic ban on exports from coun­tries, although the cur­rent freeze of ship­ments of impor­tant raw mate­ri­als could spark a wave of food nation­al­ism’ hold­ing back global trade.

Other coun­tries have started stock­ing up on pri­mary food com­modi­ties. China pledged to buy huge quan­ti­ties of rice from its own crop to increase its already ample stocks, and impor­tant wheat importers like Alge­ria and Turkey have issued ten­ders to buy more.

Indus­try experts stressed that, con­trary to past times of food infla­tion, sta­ple crops like corn, wheat, rice and soy­beans exist in abun­dance and nations have no rea­son to resort to food hoard­ing prac­tices.

They also called for actions in tan­dem and coop­er­a­tion of nations amid the coro­n­avirus global cri­sis.

Given the prob­lem that we are fac­ing now, it’s not the moment to put these types of poli­cies into place,” Max­imo Torero, chief econ­o­mist at the UN’s Food and Agri­cul­ture Orga­ni­za­tion, said. On the con­trary, it’s the moment to coop­er­ate and coor­di­nate.”



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