SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted global food supplies and is causing labour shortages in agriculture worldwide.
ARE WE FACING FOOD SHORTAGES?
Panic buying by shoppers cleared supermarket shelves of staples such as pasta and flour as populations worldwide prepared for lockdowns.
Food firms say panic purchasing is subsiding as households have stocked up and are adjusting to lockdown routines.
The logistics to get food from the field to the plate, however, are being increasingly affected and point to longer-term problems.
In the short-term, lack of air freight and trucker shortages are disrupting deliveries of fresh food.
Longer-term, lack of labour is affecting planting and harvesting and could cause shortages and rising prices for staple crops in a throwback to the food crises that shook developing nations a decade ago.
WHAT’S DISRUPTING FOOD SUPPLY?
With many planes grounded and ship containers hard to find after the initial coronavirus crisis in China, shipments of vegetables from Africa to Europe or fruit from South America to the United States are being disrupted.
A labour shortage could also cause crops to rot in the fields.
WILL THERE BE ENOUGH FOOD IF THE CRISIS LASTS?
Analysts say global supplies of the most widely consumed food crops are adequate. Wheat production is projected to be at record levels in the year ahead.
However, the concentration of exportable supply of some food commodities in a small number of countries and export restrictions by big suppliers concerned they have enough supply at home can make world supply more fragile than headline figures suggest.
Another source of tension in global food supply could be China: there are signs the country is scooping up foreign agricultural supplies as it emerges from its coronavirus shutdown and rebuilds its massive pork industry after a devastating pig disease epidemic.
Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Susan Fenton and Richard PullinOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
World risks food crisis in wake of coronavirus, officials warn
Governments must ensure free trade especially to avoid further slowdowns in food-supply chains, WTO, WHO, UN say.
1 Apr 2020
The world risks facing a food shortage if authorities fail to manage the continuing coronavirus outbreak properly, the heads of three global agencies have warned.
As governments around the world are trying to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus by putting their populations in lockdown, international trade and food supply chains suffered a severe slowdown.
Panic-buying by people going into confinement has already demonstrated the fragility of supply chains as supermarket shelves emptied in many countries.
“Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market,” said the joint text signed on Wednesday by Qu Dongyu, head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Roberto Azevedo, director of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, specially to avoid food shortages” from developing, they said in the statement.
“When acting to protect the health and wellbeing of their citizens, countries should ensure that any trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain,” the statement added.
“Over the longer term confinement orders and travel restrictions risk causing disruptions in agricultural production due to the unavailability of agricultural labour and the inability to get food to markets.
“Such disruptions including hampering the movement of agricultural and food industry workers and extending border delays for food containers, result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste,” said the three leaders.
They also stressed the need to protect employees engaged in food production, processing and distribution, both for their own health and that of others, as well as to maintain food supply chains.
Coronavirus may cause global food shortages as panic buying and export curbs hit supply
- UN Food and Agricultural Organisation says there could be global food shortages in April and May as a result of supply problems caused by the coronavirus
- China is heavily dependent on imports for some crops like soybeans, which may be affected by disruptions to global logistics networks
Published: 11:30pm, 30 Mar, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic could seriously disrupt global food supply chains and send prices soaring, especially for those economies with vulnerable supply structures, if major producing countries increase export restrictions, international agencies and food experts have warned.
China is expected to be shielded from severe supply shortages as the country has been relying on its own output of rice and wheat to feed its 1.4 billion people, but its reliance on imports for certain crops, such as soybeans, could send food price soaring and add further misery to domestic consumers.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) said last week that it had “already seen signs that pressures due to lockdowns are beginning to impact supply chains, such as the slowdown in the shipping industry. Disruptions, particularly in the area of logistics, could materialise in the coming months.”
The UN Committee on World Food Security sounded an even stronger warning that “disruptions at borders and in supply chains may cause an echo in the food system with potentially disastrous effects”.