Food Supply Under the Pandemic

Jan 01, 2021
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Food Supply Under the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has left a devastating impact on global food supplies, as countries around the world have put a halt on all economic and social activities to limit the spread of the virus. This resulted in the closure of borders, shipping activities, farm labor, food processing, transport, and logistics, ultimately leading to a massive shift in food demand.

On a local level, the pandemic initially resulted in panic buying from consumers. Fearing a looming food and essential supplies shortage, consumers worldwide flooded grocery shops to stock up.

The national and global impact was mixed but still profound. Here were some of the few consequences:

  • The effect of the pandemic on the food supply chain differed according to the food type. For example, fruits and vegetables are more labor-intensive than grains, so travel restrictions have limited seasonal laborers' access to planting and harvesting.
  • Many are worried about the long-term effects of the pandemic on farming supplies since seedlings are transported by air, which is an industry that is struggling during the pandemic. However, the seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, and energy have yet to be adversely affected, and energy and fertilizer prices are still relatively low for now due to the fall in oil prices.
  • Meat processing facilities have affected food processing. These facilities usually have workers working and living together in overcrowded conditions. Social distancing measures have reduced operations efficiency, and the meat industry has experienced high infection rates.

Exports News

During the pandemic, outside food consumption drastically declined. Food demand shifted from hotels, restaurants, catering, and cafés to homes.

Image: Percentage change in daily restaurant reservations compared to the previous year.
Source: OpenTable.com

This inevitably led to a shift in demand for grocery items. Both packaged and fresh food saw an increase in demand.

Image: Retail food demand index for the US. Same period last year = 100
Source: IRI

Despite what many believe, the main threat to food security during the pandemic isn't food supply but access to food. Food consumed outside of homes constitutes a large portion of the market. Thus, a market may carry flour in bulk but may not have it in the 1kg packs needed for people at home. Additionally, the socio-economic impact of the pandemic has seen job losses and income declines as well. The UN estimates that an additional 130 million people will face famine by the end of 2020.

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