The message is clear: stock up, stay at home, enter lockdown. The message is imperative, necessary. However, its cost to certain industries is immeasurable. For quite some time, analysts and scientists have discussed food security issues arising out of changing climate and consumption patterns. However, as we stand on a cusp of gaining herd immunity or losing to the latest pandemic, it’s time to assess the its cost on the relentless job of the food and agriculture industry to feed the 7 billion habitants of this planet.
The shutdown of schools across the globe has created a massive upheaval in nutritional meals to children. The number runs in millions according to World Food Programme. The organization stated that about 9 million children are not receiving meals as schools have come to a grinding halt. Beyond schools, the numbers are wider with daily wage labourers. It’s too early to have accurate figure of losses, unemployment, and wastage of perishable goods across the food, beverages, and agriculture industry. However, the current nationwide curfews and intensifying state of pandemic will have a mammoth impact on the agriculture produce in the coming days.
For now, the world depends on the unknown. No amount of predictive analysis and market watches can anticipate what is to happen. However, an economic downturn is certain, which will percolate to developing economies, compounding the existing issues of food insecurity. Limitation to access to nutritious food due to poor income sources and volatility of jobs will make nations rethink its agriculture policies, which was taken for granted in the past decade. The move will also come as nations will reduce dependency on each other amidst growing food insufficiency.
The precursors have been ignored for a while. For instance, farmer suicides in India or droughts in Africa, received aid packages, which were temporary solutions to a persistent problem of little we care about sustainable solutions. The threat of a contagion has already affected food packaging industry, deliveries, and import and export. The collective effect of this will hamper the food stock, creating a need for better farming and agricultural outlooks.
On the bright side, this could open up an entirely new market, especially in the developing economies. This could also create an avenue to explore sustainable living options to avert economic consequences of such diseases that have a longer impact than the disease itself.
We remain exposed to the greatest humanitarian crisis as Covid-19 spreads like wildfire in the coming months. The end - whether near or far - is still an uncertainty. The least that can be done is that we begin to reimagine and redefine consumerism and consumption to move beyond this existential crisis.