Thursday, March 26, 2020

Vigilance Needed to Stave Off Global Food Security Crisis
Global Times
2020/3/26 22:33:01
Photo: IC

The coronavirus pandemic could trigger a global food security crisis. Fears over its economic fallout have prompted some traditional crop-exporting countries to start restricting the flow of food, which is likely to further disrupt global supply chains.

This week, Vietnam announced a temporary suspension of new rice export contracts. Kazakhstan has reportedly restricted exports of sugar, carrots, potatoes and some other agricultural products. It seems likely that more countries will follow suit to secure their domestic food supplies as consumers panic purchase during coronavirus lockdowns.

It is time to call for urgent actions on a global scale to restore the normalcy of international agricultural product trade flows and to prevent export restrictions and logistics obstacles from provoking a real food security crisis. While price increases in the global trade of staple crops may be inevitable under the coronavirus pandemic, there is no shortage of crop supplies at the current stage. It is the wave of food hoarding that may result in serious disruptions of normal trade and eventually lead to an overall shortage.

Still, as it is hard to tell when the global spread of the coronavirus will be contained, there is a possibility that future grain supplies may face problems as efforts to combat the virus will likely affect normal farming activities in some countries. Additionally, the most serious outbreak of locusts in East Africa in 25 years may have already threatened food security in that region.

So if governments fail to rein in the coronavirus pandemic in the short term and the global food supply becomes problematic, major food shortage crises could occur in many countries. More than 820 million people are already suffering from hunger, according to media reports.

With a population of 1.4 billion, China needs to be particularly vigilant in protecting its domestic food security. Though the Chinese government has had no problem ensuring the country's grain supply this year given its massive stockpiles of rice and wheat, China still needs to plan beyond the coming year.

Governments must now coordinate on the global food supply or there will be more panic buying which will in turn lead to a greater fallout in less developed countries and regions.

In addition, global supply chains for other important raw materials and commodities also need to be restored as soon as possible despite lockdowns worldwide. If they are not restored soon, we will be facing shortages of more than just food.

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