FAO urges at G20 meeting protection of food supply chains amid COVID-19 threat

Director-General speaks to G20 agriculture ministers on behalf of UN food agencies

21 April 2020, Rome -The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a major public health concern but also a threat to global food security, one that can be mitigated by avoiding measures that disrupt food supply chains, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu told the Agriculture Ministers of the G20 countries today.

"Preserving access to safe food and nutrition is an essential part of the health response," he said, recommending countries to strengthen local production and shorten food supply chains.

"We need to collaborate with every actor in the supply chain, build public-private partnerships and promote innovation", Qu said at the Extraordinary G20 Agriculture Ministers' Meeting on Food Security and Nutrition, convened today by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which holds the rotating G20 presidency.

Speaking on behalf of the three Rome-based UN food agencies (FAO, WFP and IFAD), FAO's Director-General also urged G20 ministers to include long-term goals in their policy frameworks. "The crisis opens an opportunity to accelerate food system transformation," Qu said, pointing to e-commerce tools as a way to enhance local resilience and bolster direct links between producers and consumers. "New business models are needed. It is the time to speed-up e-commerce in agriculture and food systems across the globe", he said.

FAO is actively engaged in helping vulnerable countries bolster their food systems to counter shocks caused by COVID-19 along local, regional and global food supply chains. The COVID-19 pandemic makes early warning programmes, rapid emergency and humanitarian aid responses, and robust recovery plans very important, Qu said.

The Director-General also urged the ministers to support the broader use of timely tools such as the Agricultural Market Information System - a G20 initiative hosted by FAO that monitors world supply and price developments - and FAO's Food and Agriculture Policy Decision Analysis (FAPDA), both of which are contributing to orderly functioning of global markets.

Today's G20 meeting focused on pushing forward with the commitment made last month at a G20 Summit when leaders pledged to enhance global cooperation, and ensure and facilitate trade flows of agricultural products to safeguard global food security and nutrition.

The Ministers of Agriculture of the G20 adopted a Ministerial Statement on COVID-19, which reaffirms "the importance of working to ensure the continued flow of food, products, and inputs essential for agricultural and food production across borders." The declaration also points out that G20 countries "will work together to help ensure that sufficient, safe, affordable, and nutritious food continues to be available and accessible to all people, including the poorest, the most vulnerable, and displaced people."

The meeting was also attended by the heads of World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and a representative of the World Bank.

Screengrab: ©FAO/
Abdulrahman Al-Fadli, the Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and FAO Director-General QU Dongyu during the G20 ministerial meeting.