The coronavirus pandemic not only has far-reaching and multifaceted impacts on societies and economies, but also could aggravate existing instabilities and lead to new ones with repercussions on food security, nutrition and livelihoods, according to a new UN study.
The report – “Early Warning Analysis of Acute Food Security Hotspots” – compiled by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation has come out with several impacts on the food scenario due to Covid 19.
Impacts on food access through reduced household purchasing power
The report says that the ability of the urban poor and other market-dependent groups to access food would be affected because of the loss in purchasing power due to falling incomes, lost remittances and, in some contexts, higher food prices.
It also quoted the International Labour Organisation report that said that about 400 million full time jobs would be lost and the worlds will also see a 14 percent reduction in global working hours. This is particularly in countries where people are employed in informal sector. The report said that high working poverty rates and underperforming social protection systems are at risk of increasing food insecurity.
It also says that domestic food prices increased in many countries since the beginning of the pandemic. The report says that a fall in export earnings due to plummeting prices for primary commodities (oil, ores, and metals) and a drastic fall in tourism have put a strain on currencies and driven up food prices, particularly for imported foods. It also pointed out that closing of borders and suspension of weekly and open-air markets in many countries led to reduced regional trade and prevented farmers selling their produce.
Impacts on availability of food, agricultural production and food supply chains
The smooth functioning of food value chains and the flow of agricultural products are critical to food security and nutrition. But restriction on imports and movement limitations have disrupted entire food chains from production to processing, packaging, transporting, marketing and consumption, the “Early Warning Analysis of Acute Food Security Hotspots said.
Though agricultural commodities are considered to be an essential item in many countries and exempted from restrictions, the report said that supply chains have been slowed and disrupted by transport delays, closed markets and export restrictions. “These factors particularly affect farmers producing perishable goods, such as fruit and vegetable growers, resulting in waste of agricultural products, reduced wages and negative repercussions on their ability to prepare for the next cropping season,” the report says. Apart from this, shortage of labour also had its negative impacts.
The income of rural households was decreased due to reduced remittances, closure of local markets, decline in local demand and limited opportunities for daily labour. These have affected purchase inputs such as seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, animal feed and treatment. These all have led to a vicious cycle of declining production, reduced agricultural labour opportunities and increasing food prices, resulting in negative coping strategies and a further deterioration of food and nutrition security.
Impacts on government capacities to protect vulnerable populations
The pandemic has led to the low foreign exchange reserves or high public debt in many countries. With a major portion of public budget earmarked for servicing debt, the countries’ will struggle to find necessary resources to respond to the health and economic impacts
Impacts on political stability
The report points out that civil unrest risk will increase in the coming days. Aggravation of existing political crises, increased fragmentation within ruling elites or new fractures that may increase political instability under heightened pressures from the pandemic and its response. Poor handling of COVID-19 outbreaks may turn public opinion against governments.
Impacts on conflict dynamics
With restriction in movement and borders closed, they have a transhumance effect and also disrupt access to natural resources. It also said that the places where disputes, conflicts and tensions previously existed will potentially increase.
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