The impact COVID had on global food security
An international team of scientists have conducted a world-level assessment of the impacts of COVID-19 on food security.
The research, which was conducted by global research partnership CGIAR, showed that the pandemic impact most initially feared — food shortages — for the most part did not occur.
However, the research found this apparent resilience was not universal and came at a price paid largely by the informal and small-scale actors who make up the bulk of food systems in low- and middle-income countries.
Sellers in informal markets, small restaurants and vendors, and those who transport food at the local level struggled with mobility restrictions and lockdowns.
On the other hand, most of the larger, formal markets, often considered ‘essential businesses’ and exempt from many of these measures, were not only shielded from impacts, but prospered.
The research said that while the pandemic affected the livelihood of billions and made many losers, it also made a few winners across the food supply chain.
The study’s lead author, Christophe Béné, a CGIAR researcher from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, who conducted the analysis commissioned by the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub, notes that food security impacts only tell half the story.
“It is critical to understand how the pandemic affected food security, but equally important to then consider what we can learn from this to build back more resilient food systems,” he said.
“Understanding the impacts of lockdowns or market closures, for example, can help put in place interventions and policies to better protect our food systems from negative shocks in the future.”
The analysis looked at more than 330 documents in four languages from 62 countries, examining not only food security, but also COVID-19’s impacts on the food environment, or where consumers interact with the food they will eat.
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