By Oluwafunke Ishola
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), have called for care to minimise potential impacts of COVID-19 containment on food supply, global trade and food security.
The three world bodies said in a statement jointly signed by their Directors-General, QU Dongyu, Tedros Ghebreyesus and Roberto Azevedo, of FAO, WHO and WTO respectively.
According to them, governments should ensure that responses to COVID-19 does not unintentionally create unwarranted shortages of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.
They said when actions were being taken to protect the health and wellbeing of their citizens, the countries should ensure that any trade-related measure do not disrupt the food supply chain.
“Millions of people around the world depend on international trade for their food security and livelihoods.
“Such disruptions including hampering movement of agricultural and food industry workers and extending border delays for food containers, result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste,” the trio said.
The directors-general noted that uncertainty about food availability could spark a wave of export restriction and create a shortage on the global market.
“Such reactions can alter the balance between food supply and demand, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility.
“We learned from previous crises that such measures are particularly damaging for low-income, food-deficit countries and to the efforts of humanitarian organisations to procure food for those in desperate need.
“We must prevent the repeat of such damaging measures. It is at times like this that more, not less, international cooperation becomes vital,” they said.
According to them, in the midst of COVID-19 lockdown, efforts must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, especially to avoid food shortage.
Similarly, it is also critical that food producers and food workers at processing and retail levels are protected to minimise the spread of the disease within this sector and maintain food supply chains.
“Consumers, in particular, the most vulnerable, must continue to be able to access food within their communities under strict safety requirements,” they said.
The directors-general advised countries to ensure that information on food-related trade measures, levels of food production, consumption and stocks, as well as food prices, was available to all citizens in real time.
“This reduces uncertainty and allows producers, consumers and traders to make informed decisions.
“Above all, it helps contain ‘panic buying’ and the hoarding of food and other essential items,” they said.
According to the world leaders, now is the time to show solidarity, act responsibly and adhere to common goal of enhancing food security, food safety and nutrition and improving the general welfare of people around the world. (NAN)