Shorter supply chains needed to end hunger after pandemic: UN envoy

Published on 15/05/2020, 10:33am

The coronavirus crisis has heightened inequities of food availability and nutrition. A 2021 Food System Summit aims to boost resilience and sustainability

A market vendor sells produce at Victoria Market in Port Victoria, Seychelles (Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown/Flickr)

By Chloé Farand

The coronavirus crisis is deepening inequalities in accessing healthy food, the UN special envoy for food systems has warned.

As governments imposed trade and travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, global supply chains have been disrupted, hindering the distribution of food from farms to consumers largely concentrated in urban areas.

Meanwhile the economic slowdown has triggered a fall in demand, leaving unsellable fruits and vegetables rotting in fields and orchards and farmers without an income.

“My biggest concern is that there are a whole load of people out there that had the ability to feed themselves and now can’t,” Agnes Kalibata, of Rwanda, said. It puts the UN sustainable development goal to eradicate hunger by 2030 further out of reach.

Developing shorter supply chains where possible to get food to those who need it and reduce the sector’s environmental impact will be important, Kalibata said.

In December last year, Kalibata was appointed by UN Secretary General António Guterres to lead a Food Systems Summit in the second half of 2021.

The event, due to be attended by governments, businesses and experts, is designed to create momentum around transforming the global food system to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and ensure people have access to healthy diets while protecting the planet.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought the summit’s objectives into sharp focus, exposing the weaknesses of food production, processing and distribution as millions are now faced with starvation.

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