An agricultural expert from the University of Western Australia has warned that the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis threatens food security among vulnerable communities and nations.
Although Australia is among the world’s most food secure countries, Hacket Professor Kadambot Siddique from UWA’s Institute of Agriculture has called for emergency support measures for food access.
“COVID-19 does not present an immediate threat to our global food supply, as we have produced enough in previous seasons to have an adequate and stable global supply,” Professor Siddique said.
“However, the ramifications of the pandemic for food access and affordability will disproportionately affect the poor, hungry and malnourished people of the world.”
Hunger and malnutrition affect more than 820 million people around the globe, Professor Siddique said, with close to 150 million children stunted due to lack of proper nutrition.
“The role of international organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, in reducing hungry and malnutrition is so important, especially now and in the future.”
Even in Australia, Professor Siddique has called for action to ensure vulnerable communities are able to access affordable, nutritious food.
“Food relief organisations such as food banks and school meal programs will need continued support during this time. We will also need transparent monitoring of food prices to prevent inequitable food price increases, especially in remote and regional areas.”
Professor Siddique has also urged policy makers to ensure producers are given sufficient support for production and delivery of next season’s crops to ensure an uninterrupted flow of produce for international markets.
“Governments need to ensure producers have support for farm workers, as well as transport lines for delivering produce safely and receiving necessary farm inputs, such as fertilisers.”
These measures, in tandem with enhanced research and development in agriculture and food production systems, both locally and overseas, must continue post-COVID-19, he said.
“We need to continue working towards ending hunger and malnutrition, and making our global food systems resilient and equitable.
“This is vitally important, not only during times of crisis but at all times.”