The entire world remains concerned about the effects, COVID-19 pandemic will have on world food and agriculture in near future, amid lives and livelihoods exposed under risk from this pandemic. The rapid spread of the viral disease has left everybody much concerned regarding fate of human lives and likely economic threats. Despite this, experts still see global food markets well balanced with cereal stocks estimated to reach their third highest level on record for this season and export availabilities for most of the world wide leading crops to be reasonable enough to meet the expected demand.
As assessed by experts and industry persons the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on global food markets has not been so adverse as compared to the previous pandemic diseases like the Ebola outbreak. But this certainly poses a serious threat to food security at country/state levels. Official reports indicate that the Corona virus has not yet spread widely in countries with food insecurity, mainly the Sub-Saharan Africa. In coming weeks, countries that are worst affected by the virus or already have the risk food insecurity could witness lower supply of sufficient/diverse and nutritious sources of food because of border closures, quarantines,, supply chain and trade disruptions.
As understood from market talks and reports we still perceive that the disruptions are not so high since overall food supply has been sufficient in balancing the day to day requirements and no steep rise in Agricultural products have been noticed in world markets so far. But challenges do exist in the form of logistics bottlenecks i.e. movement of commodities/goods etc unable to move comfortably from one region/point to other. As a result most markets in a particular country are receiving lesser supply of fruits and vegetables in present term.
From global food demand perspective, there has been a significant increase in demand right from the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Speaking on Economics terms, demand for feed generally follows an inelastic behavior which implies that consumption will continue with a certain pace despite supply bottlenecks or any other challenges. Thus overall food consumption gets slightly limited only. This is clear from price pattern in our country, where after the outbreak commodity prices have maintained upward trend mostly.
Therefore in future it is quite likely that food demand may be slightly impacted adversely although pattern of diet-to diet consumption may differ. Although not science based but fears exists regarding animals can hosts of the virus, consumption of animal protein might register a decline versus last year. Raw fish/chicken products supplied to restaurants and hotels, including small and medium enterprises shall continue raising outbreak fears thus affecting consumption of animal protein to a great extent.
Till end of May or mid-June, food supply chain disruption can remain high. This would translate into restricted farming activity since restriction in movement, and the social distancing factor may discourage farmers from farming and also have similar influence on food processors - who handle the vast majority of agricultural products - from processing. Since restaurants shall remain closed for an extended duration – a month at least, it will lower demand for and fisheries products, eventually affecting producers and suppliers.
The disease is now a worldwide concern and needs to be addressed by all the respective governments hence needs a globally favorable solution. Unless strong and effective measures are not undertaken there will be always a high risk of food crisis resulting in sky rocketing food inflation in countries like India. There is a need to prevent global food supply chains disruptions. Steps should be considered for a better international collaboration and at the same time avoid any unilateral actions that could result enhancing the ongoing panic.