The heads of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) called governments to minimize the impact of COVID-19 related border restrictions on trade in food.
As countries move to enact measures aiming to halt the accelerating COVID-19 pandemic, the three organizations noted that care must be taken to minimize potential impacts on the food supply or unintended consequences on global trade and food security.
The highlighted that countries should ensure that any trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain. Such disruptions including hampering the movement of agricultural and food industry workers and extending border delays for food containers, result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste.
In addition, the joint statement noted that food trade restrictions could also be linked to unjustified concerns on food safety. If such a scenario were to happen, it would disrupt the food supply chain, with particularly pronounced consequences for the most vulnerable and food insecure populations.
Moreover, uUncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market. Such reactions can change the balance between food supply and demand, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility. Previous crises have shown that such measures are particularly damaging for low-income, food-deficit countries and to the efforts of humanitarian organizations to procure food for those in desperate need.
We must prevent the repeat of such damaging measures. It is at times like this that more, not less, international cooperation becomes vital. In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, specially to avoid food shortage
the statement reads.
Similarly, it is also critical that food producers and food workers at processing and retail level to be protected in order to minimize the spread of the disease within this sector and maintain food supply chains. Consumers, in particular the most vulnerable, must continue to be able to access food within their communities under strict safety requirements.