Food Companies Warn of World Hunger Doubling During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic could lead to world hunger doubling in the next few months.
The COVID-19 pandemic could lead to world hunger doubling in the next few months.

April 9, 2020 — In “A Call to Action For World Leaders”, the Food and Land Use Coalition urge world leaders to keep world trade open in order to prevent the massive disruption of food supplies and its devastating effects. The coalition, comprised of major businesses, farmers’ groups, non-governmental organizations, industry members and academics emphasize the drastic need for global COVID-19 response measures that will minimize the potential global and regional food security issues that could come in the next few months. They state that “The number of people suffering from chronic hunger – estimated at well over 800 million before the crisis – could jump dramatically. Governments, businesses, civil society and international agencies need to take urgent, coordinated action to prevent the COVID pandemic turning into a global food and humanitarian crisis.”

The coalition signifies that action is needed in three key areas:

  • Action 1: Maintain open trade to keep the food supply going around the world
  • Action 2: Ensure access to nutritional, affordable food for all by scaling support to the most vulnerable
  • Action 3: Invest in sustainable food systems

With regards to action 1, the coalition states that export restrictions by some countries are creating a barrier to the free flow of food supplies and is having detrimental effects on agriculture. They also assert that “The risk of major interruptions to food supplies over the coming months is growing, especially for low-income, net food-importing countries, many of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The solution they propose is keeping ports and borders open, investing in local food producers, treating farmers as essential services, and providing public and private financial resources to the farming community.

Action 2 addresses the loss of income felt by many households around the world. Some low-income countries are facing a total loss of income as many people in those countries work in jobs that have completely ceased in the COVID-19 pandemic. The coalition asserts that this will easily increase people suffering from hunger by two times the amount over the coming months. In order to address this, countries must expand targeted food programs, fast-track resources to low-income countries and provide budget support to assist in covering the gap caused by the reduction of export revenues.

Action 3 asserts that the current food system is fragile and that there is no short-term fix for the problems within the system. However, to begin making changes the coalition states, “Investments should focus on increasing the resilience and diversity of food supply chains, including reduced food loss and waste, developing regional food systems, providing vital social protection including free healthcare and income support, accelerating greater digitisation and transparency across the value chain, and rebuilding natural capital.” These actions are no easy feat, however their importance cannot be understated given the current COVID-19 crisis.

The call to action has been sent to the leaders of the G7 and the G20 along with some additional countries. The Food and Land Use Coalition hopes that their letter will not fall on deaf ears as the COVID-19 pandemic continue to hold firm around the world.