Global institutions news – Post date: June 26th, 2020.

IFPRI: COVID-19 and the promise of food system innovation

“One of the silver linings of any crisis is the innovation it produces. And when it comes to food, COVID-19 is no exception.” In a blog post published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, 18 June), Corinna Hawkes of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London asks which creative initiatives in response to COVID-19 will survive and can be scaled up to help in a broader transformation toward nutritious and healthy food systems.

Digital innovations have been noteworthy in enabling producers to conduct their businesses in new ways. Examples are given from China and India – and from Malawi, where farmers are adding value to products otherwise lost –tomatoes into pastes, for example – and using online advertising platforms to get the word out. Examples of innovations in distribution include Fiji’s Agriculture Marketing Authority, which stepped in to buy fresh foods direct from suppliers unable to travel to market, selling them on at no added cost to market vendors. Much more dominant are new social protection measures: the World Bank reports that as of 12 June, 173 countries had enacted 621 new social protection measures, including cash transfers and in-kind food and voucher schemes. Some have also taken measures to stabilise prices: Sri Lanka, for instance, is reported to have fixed the wholesale price of vegetables.

Recent experience demonstrates that food systems solutions to ensure the right kind of food gets to those most vulnerable are possible – when there is a will, change is possible. But concerted, creative and cross-sectoral intervention is needed to get food systems working for better diets. As well as governments, innovation also needs to involve communities, businesses and partnerships. Innovation is a huge opportunity to build evidence for the way forward: “COVID-19 has provided a real life innovation lab, a testing ground for big ideas”.

COVID-19 impact on nutrition, health and our food systems

Wandie Kazeem interviews Dr Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) (9 June). The interview discusses different forms of malnutrition, the correlation between covid-19, nutrition and health, and the recent launch of the Food Systems Dashboard, the allocation of global data linking food systems to nutrition, and how to build back better food systems and nutrition.

WTO report looks at trade developments in poorest countries in wake of COVID-19

A new information note published by the WTO Secretariat looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the participation of least-developed countries (LDCs) in global trade. The note stresses that LDCs have seen a significant decline in export earnings due to decreasing demand in key markets, falling commodity prices and a decline in remittances, and are likely to be the hardest hit by the crisis due to their limited resources to stimulate growth.

Most LDCs have experienced a significant decline in export earnings since the outbreak of COVID-19. The report anticipates that the downturn in world trade in 2020 will continue to be particularly severe for LDCs. The note underscores that the pandemic is undermining the development gains of countries such as Angola, Bangladesh and Vanuatu that are expected to graduate from LDC status in the near future.

The note also collates the measures that LDCs have taken to combat the pandemic, ranging from strengthening health care systems to providing stimulus packages to export-oriented sectors and liquidity support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

In early May, the LDCs group called on other WTO members to refrain from imposing export prohibitions or restrictions on medical goods and food. They urged governments to facilitate trade in these goods, including by implementing the provisions in the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The report notes that the international community is seeking to support LDCs’ participation in world trade by providing debt relief and strengthening social sectors.

STDF Annual Report

The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) has launched its 2019 Annual Report. The report includes COLEACP activities in Uganda and Madagascar, as well as COLEACP’s STDF programmes in Togo and Guinea to strengthen the national phytosanitary monitoring and certification systems; and in Cameroon to improve the SPS quality of Penja pepper to facilitate access to international markets.

IFPRI event: “How are food businesses coping with COVID-19 and its aftermath?”

On Tuesday 30 June, 10:00 am to 11:30 am (EDT), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) will be hosting this virtual event. Click here to register.
This discussion will look at: How should governments balance the need to protect lives from COVID-19 and the need to protect livelihoods? What food sector innovations and changes (automatisation, e-commerce) are being introduced to ensure food supply chains can function without disruption as we fight COVID-19? How can “green lanes” be created for seasonal and migrant labor to work safely in food production? How are private food businesses adjusting to shifts in food demand and food safety requirements, on the one hand, and risks of supply chain disruptions, on the other?

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