Without food, there can be no exit from the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has laid many things bare, none more so than how interconnected our world is. The impact of globalization is most obvious in the stuttering supply chains that threaten food security worldwide. Maintaining or reweaving these webs is going to take technology, innovation and political determination.
As chief economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), I fear that few countries have recognized that their measures to contain the virus and buffer economic shocks must be adjusted to keep food flowing. Without food, there can be no health. The policy prescriptions are straightforward, and isolationism can form no part of it. Countries must work together, not throw up trade walls and bar essential workers from crossing borders.
Global food-supply chains are already buckling. In India, farmers are feeding strawberries to cows because they cannot transport the fruit to markets in cities. In Peru, producers are dumping tonnes of white cocoa into landfill because the restaurants and hotels that would normally buy it are closed. And in the United States and Canada, farmers have had to pour milk away for the same reason. Legions of migrant workers from Eastern Europe and North Africa are trapped at borders, instead of harvesting on the farms of France, Germany and Italy. The United States, Canada and Australia all rely heavily on seasonal farmworkers who are unable to travel because of virus restrictions, including the suspension of routine visa services by some embassies. There are also concerns that foreign workers could import cases of infection. Crops are rotting in the fields.