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Covid-19 crisis could trigger global food shortage, UN warns

If the Covid-19 infection does not get you thanks to government prevention measures, the downside is that these steps may deprive you of fresh food, including fruit and vegetables.

While people rushed to stock up on toilet paper and other supplies as the coronavirus crisis escalated, some countries decided to enforce protectionist measures, including export bans for certain products, to satisfy growing domestic demand.

“The worst that can happen is that governments restrict the flow of food,” Maximo Torero, chief economist of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, told the Guardian, adding that we may face the consequences of these steps soon.

For example, Russia halted exports of buckwheat and other grains for 10 days starting from March 20. Neighboring Kazakhstan followed suit and introduced restrictions on shipments of wheat flour, buckwheat, sugar, several types of vegetables, and sunflower oil.

The UN official warns that protectionist measures and trade barriers only make the situation worse, creating “extreme volatility.”

Another problem is that some countries now lack the workforce to harvest the crops due in part to border closures and domestic lockdowns. As the coronavirus sweeps through Europe, farmers in France, Spain, and Italy complain that fruits and vegetables are quickly ripening and will be left to rot if the situation does not change, according to Bloomberg. Strawberry and asparagus growers are already unable to pick their crops, while everything from salad greens and tomatoes, to onions and peas could be next in line.

“Coronavirus is affecting the labour force and the logistical problems are becoming very important,” Torero said as cited by the Guardian. He added that special policies should be introduced to keep the food supply chain operating.

In order to not waste tons of harvest, Germany, which lacks around 300,000 workers, has created a special website to bring together struggling farmers and those who can help. Students and those forced to quit their jobs, for example in the service sector, are welcome to join the initiative. A similar platform was reportedly launched in Austria.

Average citizens themselves are contributing to the looming shortages by hoarding food in amounts they can’t even eat before it expires. Panic buying only deepens the crisis, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said, advising people to avoid wasting food.



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