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Agri-food sector more resilient during COVID-19 crisis


Despite the uncertainty COVID-19 is causing global food markets, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)'s new report revealed that the agri-food sector is likely to show more resilience to the pandemic crisis compared to other industries.
"The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt - at varying degrees - across all food sectors assessed by FAO,” said Boubaker Ben-Belhassen, director of the FAO Trade and Markets Division. “While COVID-19 has posed a serious threat to food security, overall, our analysis shows that from the global perspective, agricultural commodity markets are proving to be more resilient to the pandemic than many other sectors. That said, owing to the size of the challenge and the enormous uncertainties associated with it, the international community must remain vigilant and ready to react, if and when necessary.”
The new Food Outlook report revealed insights on the key trends and prospects of major food commodities such as cereals, meat, fish and dairy in 2020-2021.
For cereals, despite uncertainties posed by the pandemic, FAO's first forecasts for the 2020/21 season point to a comfortable cereal supply and demand situation.
Meanwhile, international meat trade is likely to register moderate growth - but considerably slower compared to 2019 and is mostly sustained by high imports from China. Also, meat prices fell by 8.6% from January this year. The sharpest drop is in ovine (sheep) meat, followed by poultry, pig and bovine meats due to the impacts of COVID-19-related measures, including ensuing logistical bottlenecks, a steep decline in global import demand, and substantial volumes of unsold meat products.
The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect seafood markets profoundly—particularly fresh products and popular restaurant species this year. On the supply side, fishing fleets are lying idle, and aquaculture producers have drastically reduced stocking targets, FAO said.
The pandemic is also set to hit the global shrimp and salmon production severely. Shrimp farming season in Asia, which generally begins in April, is now delayed until June/July. In India, for example, farmed shrimp production is expected to fall by 30-40%, FAO said.
Lastly, the Food Outlook revealed that compared to the 2007-08 global food price crisis, the world is faring better now. Global food production prospects are positive, stocks are high, international food prices are low, and trade is broader-based with more importing and exporting countries. Policymakers are also more experienced now in dealing with global crises, as well as better informed and prepared.
(Image from Unsplash)

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