Countries across the globe are shutting down to slow the spread of COVID-19. Supermarket shelves remain stocked for the time being, but a protracted pandemic crisis could quickly put a strain on food supply chains, disturbing the complex ecosystem of farmers, buyers, processing plants, logistics, retailers and consumers. The shipping and logistics industries are already reporting slowdowns due to port closures, which is expected to disrupt supply chains for the coming months.
In the Middle East, the combination of COVID-19 and the current Locust Plague pose a very real threat to the region’s ability to secure food in a safe, reliable, and affordable manner. Recognising this threat, consultants from Palladium’s offices in Dubai and Riyadh have created an intervention agenda to guide governments in the immediate, short and medium term.
“There are some definitive steps that governments in the GCC can take, both to address current challenges and mitigate future risks,” says Abdullah Al Nabhan, Palladium Middle East Regional Director. “COVID-19 is currently seen as a major health crisis, but its impact on the economy may lead to a food security crisis if proper measures are not taken in time.”
These measures include a Rapid Emergency Food Security Assessment, followed by a 10-point Action Plan that ensures food supply chain safety, prevents disruptions to security and production, and avoids price fluctuations.
While some of the recommendations are likely already underway (such as establishing measures for food workers to prevent the spread of COVID-19), others are more controversial, including moving away from wholesale markets altogether.
“There are other approaches that provide better planning and coordination of value chains, and far superior quality control, while significantly reducing product handling,” Al Nabhan explains.
The action plan also includes recommendations for stimulus packages and assistance programs for smallholder farmers and other stakeholders.
According to Al Nabhan, while governments around the world respond to one crisis, it is within our power to prevent another. “This Action Plan is the next step.”
Palladium has supported Governments in effectively responding to food crises by structuring global and national food systems that ensure political and financial stability, protect communities from poor health and environmental degradation, and ensure economic vitality.