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disruption in the world's food supply chain

  5 min

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Due to globalization, countries and economies are more intertwined than ever. Some economists and scientists have been critical about globalization for years, but due to the recent pandemic, negative effects of global dependency have become more and more clear. 

Lisa Appels   Sander van der Meij

As COVID-19 has been spreading through the world for almost a year now, countries have been imposing rigorous lockdown regulations to stop the virus from spreading. The effects of which have impacted all aspects of the global economy. But perhaps one of the industries that was affected the most, was the world’s food supply chain. Although no major food shortages have emerged, agricultural and food markets worldwide have been facing disruptions because of labor shortages created by restrictions on movements of people and shifts in food demand resulting from closures of restaurants and schools as well as from income losses. Export restrictions imposed by some countries have disrupted trade flows for staple foods such as wheat and rice. According to the research ‘Conceptualising COVID-19’s Impacts on Household Food Security’, the pandemic is affecting all four pillars of food security. The first being availability; is the supply of food adequate? The second being access; can people obtain the food they need? Third, utilization; do people have enough intake of nutrients? And the fourth being stability; can people access food at all times? 

Difference in recovery
Editors of the International Food Policy Research Institute claim that the impacts of COVID-19 on our food systems will be felt widely, but unevenly through different markets and countries. Farm operations may hit less hard, while small and medium-sized enterprises in urban areas will face significant problems. Governments will have to develop policies to respond to these varied impacts to avoid supply chain disruptions, higher food prices, and economic fallout for millions of employees. The way governments will tackle problems in the upcoming months will decide which countries will get through this crisis more resilient and maybe stronger than before, and which will not. 

Migration due to COVID-19
The interaction between COVID-19 and the drop in economic activity will lead to increased food insecurity within and across countries. Even before the pandemic, millions of people in the United States were struggling with access to groceries. In 2015, an estimated 39 million people, or 12.8% of the US population, lived in low income and low access areas. These are areas where a significant portion of the population lives more than a mile from the nearest supermarket or grocery store in urban areas, or ten miles away in rural areas and are commonly defined as food deserts. During the pandemic the problem of not being able to access (nutritious) foods has become worse. As CNN reports; grocers have cut back their operating hours. Public transportation has been reduced, and riders who once traveled to stores in other neighborhoods or cities can no longer do so. 

Changing food cultures

Food is more than just fuel. Food is part of different cultures and is used by people to express their emotion. It forms identities and is a form of expression. Talking about food is meaningful for many people. Food is a great carrier, spreader and connector of cultures. But as the world is trying to cope with the consequences of COVID-19. Our foodsystem and food culture is also getting the blame for the worldwide epidemic. It is not proven, but virologists suspect that bats transmitted the coronavirus to wild animals traded and slaughtered in Chinese Wuhan's Huanan Market, in where most of the first patients worked. In Chinese food culture Bushmeat, meat from exotic wild animals, is considered a delicacy. The Chinese government has been criticized for years, still allowing wild animals sold at food markets, but the outbreak of the coronavirus has caused them to finally put a ban on wildlife trade. It's not clear whether the ban will be temporary or will eventually be passed into law, meaning COVID-19 will cause permanent change in Chinese food culture.

As we look to western parts of the world, due to migration it’s been possible to eat foods of different parts of the world almost everywhere, especially in big cities. The past decades we’ve become used to integrating food and food culture from all parts of the world, into our own. For example cookbooks from bestselling author Yotam Ottolenghi, are found through households all over the world and restaurants with ramen noodles that can be eaten in almost any big city. Although the mixing of different food cultures leads to a broadened understanding of each other and boundaries of intimacy or distance can be set around the dinner table, the coronavirus has shown us that our reliance on different kinds of foods being available all the time, isn’t something we should take for granted. The trend of locally grown foods had been sparked the last couple of years, due to climate change awareness. But during the pandemic the focus of western consumers has shifted even more to locally grown foods. This development may lead to change in the ways we produce, prepare, eat, and talk about our food; ultimately changing food culture.

How COVID-19 affected our global connection

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Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.
Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.

  5 min

titel_3.svg

How COVID-19 affected our global connection

Due to globalization, countries and economies are more intertwined than ever. Some economists and scientists have been critical about globalization for years, but due to the recent pandemic, negative effects of global dependency have become more and more clear. 

Lisa Appels   Sander van der Meij

As COVID-19 has been spreading through the world for almost a year now, countries have been imposing rigorous lockdown regulations to stop the virus from spreading. The effects of which have impacted all aspects of the global economy. But perhaps one of the industries that was affected the most, was the world’s food supply chain. Although no major food shortages have emerged, agricultural and food markets worldwide have been facing disruptions because of labor shortages created by restrictions on movements of people and shifts in food demand resulting from closures of restaurants and schools as well as from income losses. Export restrictions imposed by some countries have disrupted trade flows for staple foods such as wheat and rice. According to the research ‘Conceptualising COVID-19’s Impacts on Household Food Security’, the pandemic is affecting all four pillars of food security. The first being availability; is the supply of food adequate? The second being access; can people obtain the food they need? Third, utilization; do people have enough intake of nutrients? And the fourth being stability; can people access food at all times? 

Difference in recovery
Editors of the International Food Policy Research Institute claim that the impacts of COVID-19 on our food systems will be felt widely, but unevenly through different markets and countries. Farm operations may hit less hard, while small and medium-sized enterprises in urban areas will face significant problems. Governments will have to develop policies to respond to these varied impacts to avoid supply chain disruptions, higher food prices, and economic fallout for millions of employees. The way governments will tackle problems in the upcoming months will decide which countries will get through this crisis more resilient and maybe stronger than before, and which will not. 

Migration due to COVID-19
The interaction between COVID-19 and the drop in economic activity will lead to increased food insecurity within and across countries. Even before the pandemic, millions of people in the United States were struggling with access to groceries. In 2015, an estimated 39 million people, or 12.8% of the US population, lived in low income and low access areas. These are areas where a significant portion of the population lives more than a mile from the nearest supermarket or grocery store in urban areas, or ten miles away in rural areas and are commonly defined as food deserts. During the pandemic the problem of not being able to access (nutritious) foods has become worse. As CNN reports; grocers have cut back their operating hours. Public transportation has been reduced, and riders who once traveled to stores in other neighborhoods or cities can no longer do so. 

Changing food cultures

Food is more than just fuel. Food is part of different cultures and is used by people to express their emotion. It forms identities and is a form of expression. Talking about food is meaningful for many people. Food is a great carrier, spreader and connector of cultures. But as the world is trying to cope with the consequences of COVID-19. Our foodsystem and food culture is also getting the blame for the worldwide epidemic. It is not proven, but virologists suspect that bats transmitted the coronavirus to wild animals traded and slaughtered in Chinese Wuhan's Huanan Market, in where most of the first patients worked. In Chinese food culture Bushmeat, meat from exotic wild animals, is considered a delicacy. The Chinese government has been criticized for years, still allowing wild animals sold at food markets, but the outbreak of the coronavirus has caused them to finally put a ban on wildlife trade. It's not clear whether the ban will be temporary or will eventually be passed into law, meaning COVID-19 will cause permanent change in Chinese food culture.

As we look to western parts of the world, due to migration it’s been possible to eat foods of different parts of the world almost everywhere, especially in big cities. The past decades we’ve become used to integrating food and food culture from all parts of the world, into our own. For example cookbooks from bestselling author Yotam Ottolenghi, are found through households all over the world and restaurants with ramen noodles that can be eaten in almost any big city. Although the mixing of different food cultures leads to a broadened understanding of each other and boundaries of intimacy or distance can be set around the dinner table, the coronavirus has shown us that our reliance on different kinds of foods being available all the time, isn’t something we should take for granted. The trend of locally grown foods had been sparked the last couple of years, due to climate change awareness. But during the pandemic the focus of western consumers has shifted even more to locally grown foods. This development may lead to change in the ways we produce, prepare, eat, and talk about our food; ultimately changing food culture.

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