The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the global economy hard, and in many places other factors—such as the locust invasion in East Africa and falling export commodity prices—are compounding its effects. FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero observes that no modern economy has experienced anything like the combination of the Great Lockdown and the worst recession since the Great Depression, and that these could trigger a global food crisis—with Africa south of the Sahara especially vulnerable. He lays out a series of policy prescriptions that can help keep millions from starvation and fortify food systems for a post-pandemic world.—Johan Swinnen, series co-editor and IFPRI Director General.
Food supply disruptions in developing countries during the COVID-19 pandemic have been varied and often severe, especially in labor-intensive segments of supply chains. Tom Reardon of Michigan State University and IFPRI’s Jo Swinnen summarize early experiences in both international and domestic supply chains across various types of firms and commodities. They review a range of innovations developed to keep supply chains running, many implemented at a surprisingly rapid pace—and make recommendations on to facilitate continued innovation to speed the recovery and ensure better food supplies post-pandemic.—John McDermott, series co-editor and Director, CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).
Futures prices for most staple food commodities have fallen since February because of market supply chain disruptions associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus and lower oil prices, among other factors. However, overall, price variability in the major agricultural commodity markets has remained relatively calm in the face of COVID-19-related shutdowns. Until recently, the exceptions to this relative calm have included hard wheat and coffee. Hard wheat saw moderate and high levels of price variability from April 9 to June 15. This appeared to be related to tightening of wheat markets with lower stock-to-utility ratios, measures taken by two major wheat-producing countries (Kazakhstan and Russia) to limit exports, and reports of prospects of less favorable growing conditions in parts of Ukraine and other parts of Europe. Price variability in coffee was driven by low stock levels and supply disruptions, but these conditions calmed in the second half of May.
In 2006, the Indian government launched the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). This program guarantees rural households both the legal right to employment for up to 100 days per year and a minimum agricultural wage set at the state level. Since its launch in 2006, MGNREGS has become the largest public works project in the world, but questions remain about the program’s true effectiveness. In particular, critics have highlighted the program’s high costs, inefficiencies, and potential for corruption.
As concerns over COVID-19's potential impacts on food prices and food security continue, accurate and timely data and information are more crucial than ever. On May 8, the Food Security Portal hosted a webinar on near-real-time monitoring of food crisis risk factors like the COVID-19 pandemic, food price volatility, climate-driven shocks, conflict, and economic downturns.