Africa: COVID-19 Is a Health Crisis - but a Looming Food Catastrophe, Too

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura visited food banks across the province on Tuesday, 14 April 2020 to ensure there were enough supplies available for families in distress.

Concerns around potential meat shortages - and spillovers into other parts of the food system - are putting intense pressure on political leaders to respond more aggressively, as seen in the US, where President Donald Trump ordered meat plants to re-open to avert a looming crisis.

What makes the Covid-19 pandemic unique is that it is primarily a health crisis that has also fundamentally affected both the supply and demand side of the global economy. In the food industry, governments' policy responses have mainly hinged on three major interventions. These are:

an initial intention to implement protectionist trade policies in major agricultural producing countries, followed by a pullback of direct trade restrictions;

supply-side support for agricultural industries in the form of historic budgetary support for small and large companies; and

demand-side support through a boost in household incomes through wage support.

In the early days of the pandemic, Russia, Kazakhstan, Cambodia and Vietnam, among others, introduced export quotas and bans on rice and wheat exports. These were attempts to ensure stable domestic staple food supplies amid the uncertainty of how long the pandemic would last. But these policies were soon abandoned as the countries signalled a return to open market...

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