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268. Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic on Global Food Security and Nutrition

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Only a year and a half ago, no one would have imagined that COVID-19 would change our lives so much. The spread of COVID-19 has been unprecedented, and many negative effects have been reported that include not only the threat to human health, but also the effects on employment and income, and loss of educational opportunities. The impacts on food security and nutrition involve complex systems and channels have cascading effects.

COVID-19 poses a threat to food security and nutrition particularly for vulnerable social groups through supply and demand and stockpiling shocks in international trade, disruptions and confusions in the supply chain, and loss of income and food access due to the economic crisis and widening inequality. Reduced health services, school closures and gender inequality also had indirect effects.

In low- and middle-income countries, it has been reported that due to restrictions on the use of public transportation and movement, various difficulties have been faced in terms of providing guidance by agricultural extension workers, acquisition of input materials such as seeds and chemical fertilizers, and access to sales markets. It has affected distribution lead time due to social distancing, decrease in the labor force, increase in inspection and quarantine, and increase in operating costs.

In particular, the impact of disruption in distribution of fresh foods became apparent. Due to its perishable nature, stagnation of distribution has made it impossible for people in urban areas to obtain fresh food, while in rural areas, food that has lost its place is discarded. In addition, consumer panic buying and other behaviors have encouraged the consumption of cheap energy sources (such as unhealthy processed foods) and reduced the consumption of nutritious foods. In fact, both high-income and low- and middle-income countries have reported reduced consumption of nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat. This tendency can exacerbate nutritional problems in terms of poor dietary quality, leading to micronutrient deficiency rather than increased caloric deficiency.

Today, many of the world's 7.8 billion people rely more or less on the global food system. With the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity, the risks of the global food system have come to the fore. The new coronavirus is one of the zoonotic diseases (animal-derived infectious diseases), and the outbreak of the pandemic was brought about by increasing opportunities to step into and contact wildlife habitats due to land reclamation and the loss of biodiversity, which reduces the dilution effect and increased risk of human infection. The food system also plays a role in the loss of biodiversity, and from an environmental perspective, the new coronavirus exposes the original vulnerabilities and instability of the food system.

Until now, investment in healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables has been inadequate compared to major grains that have become cheaper due to mass production. From the perspective of human and global health, it will be necessary to continue focusing on investment on local food systems centered on the development of nutritious crops and foods, at the same time as improving the sustainability, efficiency and resilience of international trade. The urgent cooperation of the international community toward the transformation of a food system that balances a healthy diet and the sustainability of the global environment will is necessary to further strengthen future food security and nutritional supply.

For details, please refer to “Agricultural Policy Survey and Statistics” Spring 2021 Edition, No. 585 issued by the National Chamber of Agriculture.


Reference

Shiratori S. and Iiyama M. Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic on Global Food Security and Nutrition. Agricultural Policy Survey and Statistics. Spring 2021 Edition, No. 585 pp.2-10 (In Japanese)

Contributors: SHIRATORI Sakiko (Information and Public Relations Office), IIYAMA Miyuki (Program Director, Information Segment)