New Food Coalition aims to avert a “catastrophic” post-COVID-19 food crisis
06 Nov 2020 --- A new alliance has been formed to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from triggering a “catastrophic” world food crisis.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has formally launched the Food Coalition, a “network of networks” designed to ensure global food access, increase the resilience of agri-food systems and make them more sustainable.
And, the FAO says now is the time for innovative thinking in the agri-food sector to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on global food supplies and security.
FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu hails the Food Coalition as a “lever to attract and harness innovative thinking and solutions.”
“The aim is to build a global alliance with a network of national governments, international organizations, thought leaders, civil societies and the private sector working together for a unified global action,” he adds.
The Food Coalition has a devoted trust fund and a web-based hub allowing participants to access a basket of project-focused information and data, as well as the funding and types of assistance needed for many on-the-ground projects.
Areas of focus range from integrated social protection policies in Latin America, supporting agricultural migrant workers in Central Asia and Eastern Europe and boosting capacities to contrast Antimicrobial Resistance in Africa to accelerating the use of geospatial data by FAO’s new data hub.
Ensuring functioning food chains
Mounting concerns of food security were aggravated early in the pandemic, when supply chain pressures were flagged alongside concerns of growing protectionism in Europe’s agri-food sector by UK F&B stakeholders.
The initial surge in global cases of COVID-19 contributed significantly to a World Food Price dip in February.
Meanwhile, global food prices continued rising for the fifth consecutive month in October, led by cereals, sugar, dairy and vegetable oils, according to the FAO.
The organization underscores that COVID-19 may add up to 132 million more people to the ranks of the world’s undernourished this year, on top of the 690 million hungry people in 2019 – highlighting the challenge that the pandemic poses to the eradication of hunger by 2030.
“Across the world, countries have to make sure that food value chains continue to function well and that the agricultural labor force and poor consumers, both rural and urban, are not pushed beyond the poverty line,” stresses Qu.
The need for systemic changes to food management are clearly evidenced. Last month, the CMCC Foundation flagged that food waste has risen amid the pandemic. In the EU alone, 88 million tons of food waste is generated each year with significant economic, environmental and social impacts.
30 countries join forces
The Food Coalition was initially conceptualized by the Italian government, with more than 30 countries having already expressed interest in joining.
It aims to help countries get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, particularly those of ending hunger and poverty.
Director-General Qu opened the virtual launch event with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy and Deputy Prime Minister Carola Schouten of the Netherlands, the two countries that have already pledged and delivered financial resources and technical support to the Food Coalition.
Event speaker Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, emphasizes that “rural economies must be rebuild as independent economies.”
“In front of the pandemic we need to redouble our efforts and reinforce our traditional commitment to help the most vulnerable,” he says.
The Food Coalition is an opportunity to show solidarity and make innovative solutions accessible and affordable to all, says Schouten.
Interest in the Food Coalition is notable among members of the G-20, indicating a potential resource and advocacy base, in terms of expertise, policy commitment and funding mobilization.
Ministers from Costa Rica, Israel, Italy and Nigeria, participated in the panel discussions during the launch, as well as ambassadors from China, the Russian Federation and the US.
In July, FAO released a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme that is designed around seven priority areas of work to help countries deal with immediate crises triggered by the pandemic and build back better agri-food systems.
For more pandemic-related headlines and guidance to navigate your business through this challenging period, readers can follow FoodIngredientsFirst’s COVID-19 updates.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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