FAO Liaison Office in New York

2030 Agenda maps the way to ensure food availability amidst COVID-19 pandemic

17/04/2020

The Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition in New York, currently chaired by Italy, held today a virtual meeting, co-organized with Brazil, Canada and Egypt, to discuss the possible impacts of COVID-19 on food security, availability and supply. More than 270 participants attended, including many Permanent Representatives from across the entire membership of the United Nations (UN).

In her opening remarks, Italy’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Claudia Del Re, urged governments to keep trade routes open and supply chains functional, while identifying the safety procedures to lessen the spread of virus. She also reiterated Italy’s continued support to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP) and other relevant UN actors in their efforts to prevent a global food crisis. Canada’s Minister of International Development, Karin Gould, highlighted that unless we respond rapidly, ongoing disruptions to food supply chains and food shortages would inevitably fuel starvation and under-nutrition. She also underlined the important role of women in building socially, economically inclusive, healthy, and environmentally sustainable food systems.

The Secretary of Trade and International Relations of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply of Brazil, Orlando Leite Ribeiro, said that so far, the global health crisis unleashed by COVID-19 had not yet translated into a general food crisis but that there were still challenges ahead. He stressed that Brazil was a reliable food supplier and called for the elimination of agricultural trade barriers.

Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees, noted the serious food security challenges already faced by Africa, compounded by climate change, water scarcity and desertification, and that would be aggravated by the COVID-109 pandemic. He also recalled the declaration on “Food Security and nutrition during the COVID 19 pandemic”, adopted at the Meeting of African Ministers of Agriculture, convened by the African Union and FAO on 16 April 2020.

The President of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, highlighted that trade and travel restrictions and labor shortages could disrupt food chains and inflate food prices. He called for actions to avoid that a health crisis became a food crisis and pointed to the findings of interactive dialogue on Targeting Hunger as elements to be considered in ensuring food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 The UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed, said that the COVID-19 pandemic was amplifying inequalities, injustices, gender-based violence and the failures and inadequacies of social safety nets. She called on the international community not to let COVID-19 put a hold on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

FAO Chief Economist, Maximo Torero Cullen, broke down how the pandemic was affecting the food sector, and stressed that even though current food supplies were sufficient for all, logistical issues related to distribution still needed to be resolved. Torero pointed out that food import dependent developing countries, including Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States were particularly vulnerable.

The President of IFAD, Gilbert Houngbo, emphasized the need for a sustainable and coordinated global response strategy to prevent food crises. He added that that rural communities were particularly vulnerable and that we should look at how to protect and prepare them for better recovery. He added that IFAD was refocusing programs to support COVID-19 responses.

The Executive Director of the WFP, David Beasley, and the Assistant Executive Director, Valerie Guarnieri, emphasized the need to protect populations already living in fragile contexts. They explained how WFP was responding to this threat, including by pre-positioning food and building stockpiles and stressed the importance of emergency food assistance and cash transfers as part of the immediate response. They added that WFP was providing logistical support to UN response.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, Agnes Kalibata, noted that the summit was a chance for all actors to commit to strengthening the resilience and sustainability of food systems and to galvanize the post-COVID-19 recovery through a set of initiatives focused on innovation, financing, technology, partnerships, and new levels of regional and global collaboration.

Throughout the event, participants referred to the socioeconomic aspect of the impacts  brought about by COVID-19 pandemic, . There was general consensus that strengthening the fundamental nexus between humanitarian assistance and sustainable development will be crucial to tackling the pandemic successfully

Following the Extraordinary High-Level Meeting of the Group of Friends of Food Security and Nutrition on the impact of COVID-19 on food availability and supply, the co-organizers Brazil, Canada, Italy and Egypt released a joint statement that is available here.