Alarmed by a potential rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and organizations are mounting special efforts to keep agriculture safely running as an essential business, markets well supplied in affordable and nutritious food, and consumers still able to access and purchase food despite movement restrictions and income losses.
This page summarizes the evolving agriculture and food situation and provides links to World Bank and other resources. Updates are frequently posted on this page.
Global markets for food staples are well supplied and prices are generally stable: between mid-January and mid-April, rice prices have risen by about 20%, but wheat prices have remained stable and maize prices have declined by nearly 15%. Global production levels for the three most widely consumed staples (rice, wheat and maize) are at or near all-time highs.
Given the status of global food supplies, export restrictions are unwarranted and could hurt food security in importing countries. The World Bank has joined other organizations in calling for collective action to keep food trade flowing between countries.
As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, disruptions in domestic food supply chains are emerging as a pressing issue in many countries. Labor shortages (due to morbidity, movement restrictions) are starting to impact processors, traders, trucking/logistics companies in food supply chains. Loss of income and jobs is reducing people’s ability to buy food and compensate farmers for their production.
Food security “hot spots” include:
- fragile and conflict-affected states, where logistics and distribution are difficult even without morbidity and social distancing.
- countries affected by multiple crises resulting from more frequent extreme weather events and pests. Example: the current locusts plague – the worst in decades—is severely impacting food security in 23 African countries.
- the poor and vulnerable, including the 820 million people who were already food insecure before the COVID-19 crisis impacted movement and incomes.
- countries that are net food importers. For these countries, exposure to food imports raises the risk of rising domestic food prices. This risk is high for many Sub-Saharan countries, the majority of whom are net food importers. Many of these countries have also had significant depreciation of their currency.
World Bank support
At the country level, the World Bank Group is working with governments and international partners to closely monitor domestic food and agricultural supply chains and how the loss of employment and income is impacting people’s ability to buy food.
We’re building on existing projects and deploying short and long-term financing. Examples:
- In **Angola, **the World Bank-financed Commercial Agriculture Development Project is helping farmer cooperatives and small and mid-sized agricultural enterprises expand and improve their operations to meet the needs of local communities during the pandemic.
- In India, women's self-help groups, supported under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission co-financed by the World Bank, mobilized to meet shortages in masks and sanitizers, run community kitchens and restore fresh food supplies, provide food and support to vulnerable and high-risk families, provide financial services in rural areas, and disseminate COVID-19 advisories among rural communities. These self-help groups, built over a period of 15 years, tap the skills of about 62 million women across India. [add link]
- In Liberia, we’re working with the government to ensure food supply chains are sustained. Although disruptions in the food supply chain are still minimal, logistical challenges are emerging. The Bank is responding by fast tracking certain activities and activating a Contingency Emergency Response Component (about $7.5 million) through Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) so the government can meet immediate food needs of vulnerable people, keep domestic supply chains moving, and support smallholder farmers to increase food production.
- In Pakistan, more than 18,000 mainly female-headed households will receive direct livelihood support through World Bank-financed projects to develop kitchen gardens, small scale livestock and agricultural activities.
- In Tajikistan, the existing Targeted Social Assistance system will provide time-bound cash transfers to food-insecure households with children under the age of 2 to mitigate the effects of increases in food prices and to protect children’s nutrition.
We’re working with countries to help them adopt appropriate food policy responses. These include:
- treating food as an ‘essential service’ to keep food moving and opening special procedures (‘green channels’) for food, trade and agricultural inputs to ensure supply chains are kept open and functional.
- incorporating necessary health and safety measures along segments of the food supply chain.
- supporting the most vulnerable populations via safety net programs, complemented by food distributions in areas where supply chains are severely disrupted.
We’re also working with partners in the United Nations and national governments to deliver immediate and long-term support to respond to a crisis-within-a crisis: the worst locust outbreak in decades. Our support will help hard-hit farmers and rural communities control locust swarms, withstand the dual crises of COVID19 and locusts, and get money into people’s pockets and equipment into farmers hands to recover, including through cash transfers, seed and fodder packages and other social safety nets.
We’re committed to helping countries prevent the next disease from emerging and be better prepared when risks materialize.
World Bank experience with the Avian Influenza shows that cross-sectoral, coordinated investments in human, environmental and animal health (“One Health” approach) are a cost-effective way to manage risks and control diseases at the source. Over 70% of emerging infectious diseases (EID) in humans have their source in animals. Transmission of pathogens from animals to humans and EIDs are increasing in a rapidly changing environment, with deforestation, land-use change and rapid population growth amplifying the exposure of humans to diseases carried by animals.
Under the first COVID-19 package of World Bank Group financing, countries are able to invest in longer-term prevention, such as strengthened veterinary services, disease surveillance and food safety. Out of the first 25 projects approved for WB financing, 11 include One Health components. In India, for example, the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project will improve disease surveillance systems in humans and animals and health information systems across the country.