As the number of people infected with the new crown virus has exceeded 10 million, a global food crisis is imminent. Not long ago, the United Nations issued an early warning about the food crisis of the poor. United Nations Secretary General Guterres said that this will be the worst in 50 years. More than 820 million people are currently starving. The number of people affected by the epidemic and falling into extreme poverty this year may increase by 49 million. What are the characteristics of the current food crisis and how should the international community respond?
Food trade restrictions cause two-way disadvantage
At present, among the top 12 countries in the world with the number of new crown infections, 8 are from developing countries. Among them, Brazil, Russia, India, Peru and Chile are all in the top. The new crown epidemic has had a huge impact on the economy and society of these countries. Although the global food production is sufficient in terms of the relationship between global food production and demand, with the spread of the new crown epidemic, the implementation of trade restrictions, travel restrictions, and suspension of economic activities, the international community is generally concerned The new crown epidemic will worsen food security problems.
In the international food trade, many low-income countries are instead net food importers, especially in the African continent. According to a World Bank study, 35 countries in Africa are net food importers. The food security of these countries depends on international Food supply and prices. A study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found that in May this year, about 3.8% of global food exports were restricted, and during the global food crisis of 2007-2008, about 4.7% of food exports were restricted, which caused international rice prices to rise. 216%, wheat rose 136%, and corn rose 125%.
In other words, if the export structure of international agricultural products cannot be maintained, it is highly likely that international food prices will rise. For low-income net food importing countries, this will cause their domestic food prices to rise, making it more difficult for more low-income populations. Get enough food. In addition, for grain exporting countries, restricting or prohibiting exports will also reduce the demand for the grain market, and will also cause grain storage costs. Together with the decline in the overall domestic consumption level, there may be a decline in domestic grain prices, which will affect grain The income level of the producer.
In many countries, especially in Europe and America, although the degree of mechanization of agricultural production is very high, a large amount of seasonal agricultural labor force is still needed for picking, storage and storage. There are about 150 million international migrant laborers in the world, and about 10% are agricultural Labor force, seasonal agricultural labor force accounted for the vast majority. At present, although the United States and European countries are gradually reopening their economies, they are facing increasingly prominent relapse problems. At present, in order to control the spread of the new coronavirus, countries have taken measures to restrict travel and entry. The seasonal agricultural labor flow has been hit hardest. A labor shortage is bound to cause labor prices to rise. In the long run, this will inevitably become a factor in boosting agricultural product prices.
Which groups have no money to buy food
On the other hand, according to the statistics of the International Labour Organization, about 2 billion laborers in the world are in informal employment, 93% of which are in developing countries, the proportion of informal employment in African countries is 85.8%, and 68.2% in the Asia-Pacific region. Formally employed workers mainly rely on daily wages to maintain their lives.
The author once conducted a survey in Malawi. A local farmer said: “The first thing we open our eyes every morning is to think about where to find work today, and then earn 500 quartets to buy back
The family’s food for one day, if they don’t find a job, they can only be hungry.” In rural small shops in many parts of Africa, many food sales units start at a meal, such as 100 ml. Oil, 500 grams of corn flour, etc.
The policy of suspending non-essential economic production activities and “fighting at home” and other policies adopted by various countries in the epidemic will inevitably cause some poor people who depend on daily wages to lose their jobs and thus have no income to purchase the necessary rations. The world has always been very worried about the outbreaks in India and African countries, because these countries have the largest informal employment population, and it is very important to provide these people with timely and necessary food or income subsidies, and these countries have limited government financial capacity. It is difficult to realize the income subsidy plan commonly adopted by developed countries.
What challenges does international cooperation face
Not long ago, the World Food Program said that Latin America and the Caribbean will increase 14 million hungry people due to the outbreak, and this region has always been a region with a relatively low incidence of hungry people. This is also the most different aspect of the food security issue this time.
In the past, the global food security crisis was mainly caused by local conflicts and natural disasters caused by climate change. The impacts are regional, mainly in Africa and the South Asian subcontinent, and are generally handled through consultations on international food trade rules and food assistance. . However, the causes of the food security crisis caused by the new crown epidemic are more systematic and complex. Countries are facing serious challenges, the region is more extensive, and international cooperation is also facing negative impacts such as politicization of the epidemic, so it is more difficult to respond.
First of all, the focus of governments and the international community is still on the prevention and control of the spread of viruses. International cooperation resources flow to the public health and medical fields in large quantities, which may squeeze resources used to alleviate food security problems.
Secondly, due to various restrictions such as transportation, the flow of food and people is also affected. Traditional food assistance is difficult to smoothly advance, and the cost of providing food assistance is increasing.
Once again, the international community has predicted the future potential risks and crisis outbreaks through various data analysis and model evaluations. Various evaluations have shown that the food security problems caused by the new crown epidemic may be one of the most serious in history. Society must form a high level of consensus and actively cooperate to deal with the crisis.
In terms of responding to this international food crisis, what can the United Nations and the international community do?
First, the international community should pay closer attention to agricultural production issues in low-income countries, provide support for agricultural production, especially focus on improving the agricultural production capacity of small farmers, and improve the ability to respond to climate change and various diseases and pests, thereby enhancing Local food supply capacity.
Second, today, when international cooperation is facing serious challenges, the role of the international multilateral cooperation mechanism should be strengthened to give full play to the overall coordination and coordination role of the United Nations. In particular, the three food and agriculture organizations (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme) need to formulate a clear and feasible “road map” as soon as possible.
Third, strengthen cooperation with governments, the private sector, and other relevant agencies to devote more resources to countries and populations that are vulnerable to food security, thereby alleviating the global food security crisis.