The President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Tijani Muhammad-Bande, has warned against coronavirus-response measures that can deny citizens access to sufficient food and nutrition.
He gave the warning in his remarks at an extraordinary virtual meeting of the Group of Friends on Global Food Security and Nutrition in New York on Friday.
“As we contend with the COVID-19 pandemic it is critical that the people we serve have equal access to sufficient food and nutrition.
“The effect that COVID-19 has on our food systems cannot be underestimated.
“Although, at present, there are abundant food reserves in the international market, we must remain vigilant,” he said.
Muhammad-Bande specifically warned against trade restrictions, which he said could result in food shortages and increase in the prices of food items.
The UNGA president identified travel restrictions, ”suspended flight operations, border closures and labour shortages, as other factors that can disrupt food supply chains.
”Many countries have shut their doors against foreigners as part of measures to prevent spread of the COVID-19 from abroad.
”There are also reports of farmers struggling to move their products to market due to disruption in transportation systems occasioned by movement restrictions.
Muhammad-Bande, who is Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN, said closure of restaurants, schools and workplaces in many countries had led to reduction in demand for food products.
“Considering food supply chains as an essential sector of economy and guaranteeing movement of essential workers and food – with necessary precautions – as many Member States have done, will ensure stability in the supply.
“We should also protect Small and Medium Enterprises in the food sector including retailers who are highly vulnerable to economic shocks.
“These measures would help us preserve consumer trust in the availability of food at affordable price, which is key to stability in these difficult times,” he said.
At the same meeting, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said border closures were already disrupting trade and markets, especially in the supply chains, causing price rises in some countries.
“In others, people are struggling to find the resources to buy food, because they have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 and the restrictions needed to suppress its transmission.
“Elsewhere, restrictions on the movement of agricultural workers is increasing spoilage and waste.
“The policies we put in place now will shape the future of our food systems and supply,” she said.
Mohammed urged countries to incorporate better food supply measures into their response plans to the pandemic.
“Now is the time to build the sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems that we need to achieve the 2030 Agenda and create a better future for all on a healthy planet,” she said.