April 7, 2020
UN's WFP: COVID-19 has little impact on global food supply chain so far, but ...
The World Food Programme (WFP) said the COVID-19 pandemic so far has had little impact on the global food supply chain, noting that global markets for basic cereals are well supplied and prices are generally low.
The UN food-assistance agency warned, however, that the situation could take a turn for the worse if major food importers are overtaken by anxiety-driven panic.
In a new report on the potential impact of COVID-19 on the world's poorest people, it said commodities need to move from the world's breadbaskets to where they are consumed, given the highly globalised nature of food production and supply, although coronavirus-related containment measures are making this more challenging.
WFP Senior Spokesperson Elisabeth Byers said disruptions are so far minimal, food supply is adequate and markets are relatively stable. She also noted that global cereal stocks are at comfortable levels, with the outlook for wheat and other staple crops positive for the rest of the year.
"But we may soon expect to see disruptions in food supply chains", she warned, explaining that if big importers lose confidence in the reliable flow of basic food commodities, panic buying could ensue, driving prices up.
Elaborating, a grain market analyst at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), quoted anonymously in the report, said the problem is not supply but "a behavioral change over food security".
"What if bulk buyers think they can't get wheat or rice shipments in May or June? That is what could lead to a global food supply crisis", the analyst said.