UN agency warns action needed to prevent ‘food crisis’

The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development committed $40 million to support farmers and rural communities in producing food during the coronavirus pandemic. “We need to act now to stop this health crisis transforming into a food crisis,” said IFAD president Gilbert Houngbo. IFAD hopes to raise an additional $200 million from UN members, foundations and the private sector.

Separately,  World bank analysts said the coronavirus will cause the first increases in global poverty since the Asian financial crisis of 1998, impoverishing around 50 million people, for a total of 665 million people. That will bring the total in poverty to 8.6 percent of the earth’s population.

Steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus, such as restrictions on travel, may prevent smallholder farmers from reaching the markets where they sell their produce and the towns where they buy supplies such as seeds and fertilizers. Travel and export regulations may impinge on food supplies as well. About 80 percent of the world’s poorest people, with scanty access to food, live in rural areas.

“This pandemic is threatening the gains we have made in reducing poverty over the past years. To avoid serious disruption to rural economies, it is essential to ensure agriculture, food chains, markets and trade continue to function,” said Houngbo in an IFAD release.