Three global organizations issued a rare common statement warning of a possible worldwide undersupply of food as a result of trade and export prohibitions enforced in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
We must ensure that our response to COVID-19 does not unintentionally create unwarranted shortages of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.
“As countries move to enact measures aiming to halt the accelerating COVID-19 pandemic, care must be taken to minimize potential impacts on the food supply or unintended consequences on global trade and food security,” Qu Dongyu, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, and Roberto Azevedo, director of the WTO, said in their joint declaration.
They called for the facilitation of transport of goods for the sake of citizens, as experience has shown that trade barriers and export bans can harm people and countries — especially the most vulnerable.
“Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage in the global market,” the statement read. “Such reactions can alter the balance between food supply and demand, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility,” the three leaders wrote.
“We learned from previous crises that such measures are particularly damaging for low-income, food-deficit countries and to the efforts of humanitarian organizations to procure food for those in desperate need.”
The organizations highlighted the need to protect producers and workers of the food sector “to minimize the spread of the disease within this sector and maintain food supply chains.”
Consumers, in turn, and especially the most vulnerable, “must continue to be able to access food within their communities under strict safety requirements,” the declaration underlined, while information on food production, consumption and available stocks should be readily available to prevent panic-buying and food-hoarding practices.
The statement concluded with an appeal to everyone to contribute to achieving food availability amid the coronavirus lockdown measures.
“Now is the time to show solidarity, act responsibly and adhere to our common goal of enhancing food security, food safety and nutrition and improving the general welfare of people around the world,” the directors appealed.
“We must ensure that our response to COVID-19 does not unintentionally create unwarranted shortages of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.”