World has enough food to withstand COVID crisis, says UN agency

Lower-than-expected production levels in China following the relaxation of lockdown measures there could be an indicator that tens of millions more people will have too little to eat globally this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said on Friday.

At the same time, the agency appealed for the free movement of food across borders “with no restrictions” as there are enough basic foodstuffs – including rice, maize and wheat – to feed the world.

Here’s FAO Chief Economist, Maximo Torero:

“Today, we have 821 million people undernourished, so we are talking of an increase of around eight per cent to 10 per cent of that number if there are changes in GDP growth… Our lowest scenario with two per cent GDP growth is around (a) 30 million increase, our highest scenario is 88 million people going to undernourishment.”

A key concern is the vulnerability of mainly poor, export-led economies as the pandemic goes on; their mainly informal workers are unlikely to benefit from the injection of billions of dollars into the global marketplace to support trade by richer, industrialised countries as local currencies suffer against stronger denominations, the FAO believes.

To mitigate the pandemic’s impacts, FAO has urged countries to meet the food needs of vulnerable populations, boost social protection programmes, keep global food trade going and support smallholder farmers.