The covid-19 pandemic’s impact on hunger around the world could be worse than the calamitous spike in food prices of 2007 and 2008, a leading food security expert warns.
Unlike the scarcity of food during the crisis 13 years ago, the big issue this time is the economic downturn hitting the ability of millions of people to afford food. This has the potential to be more significant than the last time around, because of the unknown extent and longevity of the global recession, which could push millions of people into extreme poverty, and food insecurity, which the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) recently cautioned could double the number of food- insecure people to around 265 million globally.
“Today, the problem is not a problem of food availability (food stocks are around double the level they were during 2007 to 2008); the problem today is of food access,” he says. “We have a very good harvest of cereals this year. The problem is logistical, especially with high value commodities because they are perishable and any logistic delay will affect them. Difficulty moving food around in the face of trade and travel restrictions is going to be a big challenge. Thus we have the ironic situation of rising hunger in a world of plenty.
1. Lower demand is leading to lower prices, which will mean farmers need support to cope in many parts of the world. Prices have declined three months in a row, with April 2020, down 3 per cent on April 2019.
2. With many younger people leaving for cities, farmers tend to be older and so more vulnerable if the coronavirus reaches them and they are infected, and this would affect production
3. About 65 million children normally eat some form of nutritious meal at school but are no longer getting it. Work is under way with governments to replace those meals.
4. Plagues of locusts in the Horn of Africa, which the FAO says is the worst in a quarter of a century.
(Adam Vaughan. New Scientist , 23 May 2020, quoting work byMartin Cole, University of Adelaide and Maximo Torero at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
My comment: Aside from a few countries, particularly those run by women, we have no leaders to dig us out of all this.