- OECD: Evaluation of the impact of COVID-19 on the fruit and vegetable trade
- International online survey: food access, availability and choices
- World Trade Organization: Statement on COVID-19 and international trade
- EU-led fundraising for global solutions
- FAO: Global cooperation on supply chains will be crucial
- Organic World Congress postponed to 2021
OECD: Evaluation of the impact of COVID-19 on the fruit and vegetable trade
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is preparing an evaluation of the impact of the coronavirus on the fruit and vegetable trade. COLEACP, along with Freshfel and others, has provided information for the study, based on members’ feedback. A preliminary report has been published; this will be followed up by a full Policy Report to be published via a special OECD webpage dedicated to COVID-19 issues.
International online survey: food access, availability and choices
The School of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Zambia is collaborating in an international online survey: “Food availability, accessibility and dietary practices during the coronavirus disease pandemic”. The study is being conducted by researchers at universities in Canada, France and several African countries.
As the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide lockdowns have disrupted the ways in which people are able to get food, the team is inviting adults 18 years and over to take part in an online survey which aims to understand how people’s food access, availability and choices have been affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns, and how they are coping.
World Trade Organization: Statement on COVID-19 and international trade
Co-signatories of a joint statement, shared with all 164 WTO Members on 22 April, have pledged to ensure well-functioning global agriculture and agri-food supply chains and to avoid measures with potential negative impacts on food security, nutrition and health.
The statement calls for any emergency measures related to agriculture and agri-food products to be targeted, proportionate, transparent, temporary and consistent with WTO rules. Measures should not distort international trade in these products or result in unjustified trade barriers. Rather, WTO Members are encouraged to put in place temporary working solutions to facilitate trade.
“Maintaining effective transport and logistical services will be crucial to the proper functioning of the food supply chain. We encourage Members to implement temporary working solutions to facilitate trade, such as allowing scanned copies or electronic copies of original certificates whenever it is not possible to present the original paper certificate, provided the authenticity of these certificates can be validated by competent authorities.”
WTO Members who have signed the initiative include the European Union, the United Kingdom and Malawi.
EU-led fundraising for global solutions
An EU-led online fundraising marathon launched on Monday 4 April has already raised €7.4 billion of a €7.5 billion target for vaccines, medicines and diagnostics to be developed for the coronavirus and made available all over the world. An op-ed published on 3 May in newspapers worldwide stated that the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus “could be particularly dramatic in Africa and the Global South as a whole”, and that “This means bringing together the world’s best – and most prepared – minds to find the vaccines, treatments and therapies we need to make our world healthy again, while strengthening the health systems that will make them available for all, with a particular attention to Africa.”
The announcement, by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and the leaders of Italy, France, Germany and Norway, said that the funds raised will kickstart an unprecedented global cooperation between scientists and regulators, industry and governments, international organisations, foundations and healthcare professionals, as well as experienced organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. The international pledging marathon will run until the end of May 2020.
FAO: Global cooperation on supply chains will be crucial
Máximo Torero, chief economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has published a Comment piece in Nature (23 April) pointing out that countries must join forces to avert a global food crisis due to COVID-19.
“The impact of globalization is most obvious in the stuttering supply chains that threaten food security worldwide. Maintaining or reweaving these webs is going to take technology, innovation and political determination.”
Torero states that countries must work together, for example by agreeing to eliminate tariffs and taxes to compensate for local price increases caused by currency devaluation; and designating workers at ports and on farms as essential personnel, protecting their health but ensuring that they can travel and continue to work.
Latin America and Caribbean sets an example
As an encouraging example of collaboration, the article cites the commitment recently signed by the agriculture ministers of 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including 11 ACP countries, to work together to guarantee food supplies in the region.
Their statement commits to acting in coordination, exchanging information and good practices, and adopting appropriate measures in accordance with the reality of each country, including:
- provide technical and financial assistance to small and medium-sized agricultural and agro-industrial producers
- ensure the regular functioning of local, regional and national wholesale markets, coordinating with importers and distributors of food from the private sector
- implement emergency programmes to prevent food losses and waste, including food banks
- monitor logistics chains, especially those that include two or more countries, and establish measures to expeditiously resolve any bottleneck that may affect their operation
- introduce and promote electronic food commerce platforms and applications to favour chains with fewer intermediaries
- promote that fiscal or trade policies should not weaken the normal functioning of regional and global food trade
- establish agile public-private mechanisms to monitor supply and markets, and coordinate real-time responses, including global platforms such as the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).
A smarter food system
The pandemic has underscored that the world must use its land and water resources sustainably to grow essential, nutritious food in a more resilient way. One way is to cut food loss: the world squanders about US$400 billion of food annually, an amount that could feed around 1.26 billion people a year, and equivalent to 1.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Another priority is better treatment for smallholders and migrant workers: small-scale operations need access to markets, and help to increase productivity and incomes that goes beyond subsidies.
Torero writes: “It is precisely because the coronavirus doesn’t respect borders that global cooperation is the only shot at defeating it. The people who are working on vaccine trials, health care, drug discovery and economic recovery must all still eat. We can either stand together or many millions will starve separately.”
Organic World Congress postponed to 2021
IFOAM’s Organic World Congress, originally scheduled for September 2020, has been postponed for a year until 8–10 September 2021 (with pre-conferences 6 and 7 September).
The Congress will adjust its messages to build on heightened public awareness of the need for a paradigm shift: Questions around resilience, societal transformation, ecosystem regeneration, health and food sovereignty are more important than ever and will be addressed under the event’s tagline: “From its roots, organic inspires life”. Our ambition remains to offer a truly global and diverse space that inspires positive change through knowledge exchange, learning and the formulation of sustainable solutions, for a better tomorrow for all.
The Congress will be held at the Couvent des Jacobins Congress Center in Rennes, France.