An increasing number of countries are facing growing levels of acute food insecurity, reversing years of development gains. Even before COVID-19 reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, chronic and acute hunger was on the rise due to various factors including conflict, socio-economic conditions, natural hazards, climate change, and pests. COVID-19 impacts have led to severe and widespread increases in global food insecurity, affecting vulnerable households in almost every country, with impacts expected to continue through 2021 and into 2022.
The primary risks to food security are at the country level: Higher retail prices, combined with reduced incomes, mean more and more households are having to cut down on the quantity and quality of their food consumption.
Numerous countries are experiencing high food price inflation at the retail level, reflecting lingering supply disruptions due to COVID-19 social distancing measures, currency devaluations, and other factors. Rising food prices have a greater impact on people in low- and middle-income countries since they spend a larger share of their income on food than people in high-income countries.
Some food producers also face losses on perishable and nutritious food as consumption patterns shift towards cheaper staples. Though current food insecurity is by and large not driven by food shortages, supply disruptions and inflation affecting key agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds, or prolonged labor shortages could diminish next season’s crop. If farmers are experiencing acute hunger, they may also prioritize consuming seeds as food today over planting seeds for tomorrow, raising the threat of food shortages later on. In Pakistan, a $200 million Locust Emergency and Food Security project supports emergency actions to control the locust outbreak and prevent further spread across Pakistan and the South Asia region. It aims to protect Pakistan’s national food security and ensure the sustainability of the agriculture sector.