Report: Covid-19 to worsen food insecurity around globe

The worldwide fight against the coronavirus pandemic will reduce income in countries where food insecurity is already high, leading to increased demand for food aid, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in a quarterly report. “While agricultural production has been comparatively unaffected and supplies of staple foods are reported to be generally ample or stable, income losses due to the measures implemented to contain the spread of the disease and the overall economic downturn are likely to increase the severity and prevalence of food insecurity,” said the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

The report said 44 countries — 34 in Africa, eight in Asia and two in Latin America and the Caribbean — needed food assistance. Armed conflicts and harsh weather are the critical factors in countries with high levels of severe food insecurity, said the FAO. In some African countries, lockdowns have prevented farmers from bringing crops to market and prevented seasonal laborers from working on farms, reducing income for both groups. In southern Africa, some countries banned street vendors, who are an important source of food for low-income households.

In East Asia, a handful of countries limited food exports in a bid to stabilize domestic supplies. All the same, local prices of wheat and potatoes rose sharply, particularly in April. “Prices of rice in South America and beans in Central America increased sharply in the March-May period, reflecting an increase in domestic demand and a slowdown in farm sales,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, the FAO said its Food Price Index rose 2.4 percent in June, its first increase of the year. Vegetable oil prices shot up 11.3 percent, fueled by a sharp rise in palm oil prices as countries relaxed their Covid-19 rules. Sugar prices were up 10.6 percent and dairy prices rose 4 percent.