The Current State of COVID-19 Food Shortages

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Maya Guzman, Writer

Regardless of what your initial sentiments had been at the start of this pandemic, not one of us could have foreseen the long term conflict that would arise. What had originally begun as several days in quarantine, have progressed into weeks, and now months. With the rapid escalation of uncertainty amid Covid-19, how has the unpredictable aspect of this pandemic impacted the dire circumstance of food shortage in developing countries? At one point or another, we underwent the frantic feeling of shopping amidst empty aisles at the supermarket, since then— what steps has American agriculture taken in maintaining food security on a global level?


In Maria Nicola and Zaid Alsafi’s International Journal of Surgery, the two doctors assess the socio-economic implication of the emergence of the pandemic. Beginning with the agricultural take on Covid-19, the journal speaks from the perspective of the consumer, “The food sector is … facing increased demand due to panic-buying and stockpiling of food products.” Additionally, the doctors further clarify that for most situations of the manufacturer, “advice on self-isolation upon contact with suspected carriers of the virus is likely to impact the number of available inspectors and delivery staff critical to ensuring verification and transportation of products. This will have … implications for perishable goods such as meat and vegetables.” 


At the primary stages of quarantine, the demand for food has grown exponentially due to consumer alarm, whereas FDA restrictions have limited both work staff and heavily regulated transportation as well as exchange commodities for manufacturers here in the U.S. 


Consequent to these conflicting behaviors early in the pandemic, food panic raided America, yet in a more detrimental manner, with an 82% increase in hunger, it also has robbed developing countries of food security. In the study COVID-19 and Global Food Security, David Laborde, Will Martin, and Rob Vos speak on the influence of Covid-19 in a global manner; the three estimate “over 140 million people could fall into extreme poverty (measured against the $1.90 poverty line) in 2020 — an increase of 20% from present levels.”


“The recession that has already started in Europe and the United States is projected to depress economic activity across developed countries by 6% on average in 2020… For developing countries as a group, the economic fallout would lead to a decline of their aggregate

GDP of 3.6%, but economies in Africa south of the Sahara, Southeast Asia, and Latin America would be hit much harder due to their relatively high dependence on trade and primary commodity exports,” states the study. The larger the stressor on an international nation, the more critical they affect the wellbeing of an economically developing country.


Now at a Phase 4 food security crisis, “lower labor demand in urban service sectors may push workers to return to agriculture, also contributing to greater domestic food production. With more workers in the sector, however, individual incomes would remain low.” says COVID-19 and Global Food Security.


In a recent report, the Food Security Information Network further elucidates the negative effects of extreme poverty and starvation, “In contexts of conflict…violence, insecurity and displacements are likely to increase, the nutrition situation is also expected to deteriorate due to the spread of diseases, limited access to food and basic services as well as limited access to humanitarian aid”.


So where do we go from here you might ask, where does the gloom of the night meet daybreak? How can I contribute, what can my government do to aid the monstrosity of food shortage in emergent nations?


Realistically, there is no simple solution to turn the direction of this crisis—however we can contribute to the halt in food shortage severity through practicing consumer consciousness. By educating ourselves on the brands we purchase from and turning to domestic food production, we allow room to partially alleviate the stressors inflicting developing countries. Additionally, by participating in public policy and engaging in agro-ecological research, advancements in conservation policy and manufacturing processes are given the privilege of furthering efficient production. With these methods along with minimizing food speculation, addressing modern waste culture, and most importantly setting aside time to educate ourselves, as a whole we can advance in agricultural sustainability and ally economically challenged nations buried in food shortage.