The world faces a food crisis after the coronavirus: UN, WTO

PARIS: The heads of three global agencies warned on Wednesday of the risk of a global food shortage if authorities fail to manage the ongoing crisis properly.

Many governments around the world have put their populations under lock and key causing severe slowdowns in international trade and food supply chains.

The purchase of panic by people entering confinement has already demonstrated the fragility of supply chains as supermarket shelves were emptied in many countries.

Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage in the world market, said the joint text signed by, head of the UN food and agriculture organization (FAO), Ghebreyesus , general director of the World Health Organization (WHO) and, director of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

Amid the Covid-19 blockades, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, especially to avoid food shortages, they said in their statement.

By acting to protect the health and well-being of their citizens, countries must ensure that trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain, they added.

In the long term, confinement orders and travel restrictions risk disrupting agricultural production due to a lack of agricultural labor and the inability to bring food to markets.

Such disruptions, which include hampering the movement of food and agriculture industry workers and extending border delays for food containers, result in deterioration of perishable goods and increased food waste, the three leaders said.

They also highlighted 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.

It is at times like this that more, not less, international cooperation is essential, they said.

We must ensure that our response to Covid-19 does not unintentionally lead to an unwarranted shortage of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.