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COVID-19 and Global Food Security

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Johan Swinnen and John McDermott

COVID-19 first emerged in China in late 2019, and the country mobilized a major epidemic response in January 2020, with stringent lockdowns and travel restrictions. The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic on March 11, and many countries soon began to impose measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Since then, the disease has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and disrupted the livelihoods of billions of people. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) started a blog series on COVID-19 in February, first looking at the implications of the pandemic and responses in China. In March, as the enormous reach and potential impact of the pandemic became clearer, IFPRI researchers and guest authors began to look at its global repercussions on poverty and food and nutrition security. As the emergency response phase began in many low- and middle-income countries in the following months, we continued to use this blog series to analyze COVID-19 impacts. Entries in this series report results from continuously updated model assessments and innovative surveys — including phone surveys of households and firms and key informant networks — for early assessments of changes in food and nutrition security. At this point, there are over 40 entries in the COVID-19 series, and that number continues to grow. IFPRI researchers have also developed a set of tracking tools that are publicly available. At the global level, these include trackers for staple foods, notably on price volatility and trade. In some African and South Asian countries, a daily food price monitoring system has been established in several local markets. To track and measure divergence in public policy responses, IFPRI has established a country-level COVID-19 policy response tracking system, a complement to the World Bank’s social protection tracker. This e-book compiles a selection of entries from the IFPRI blog series on COVID-19. The pieces provide key insights and analysis on how the global pandemic is affecting global poverty and food security and nutrition, food trade and supply chains, gender, employment, and a variety of policy interventions, as well as reflections on how we can use these lessons to better prepare for future pandemics. These pieces draw on a combination of conceptual arguments, global and country-level simulation models, in-country surveys, case studies, and expert opinions. Together, they present a comprehensive picture of the current and potential impact of COVID-19 and the policy responses to the pandemic on global food and nutrition security. This book could not have come together without the editorial guidance of Pamela Stedman-Edwards and the design work of Jason Chow. We are grateful to Drew Sample and John McQuaid, who provided invaluable editorial support for the blog series from which this book is drawn, and support from all of IFPRI’s Communications and Public Affairs Division, which made this work possible. Finally, we dedicate this book to Rajul Pandya-Lorch upon her retirement. She has been a driving force behind many IFPRI publications and enthusiastically supported the creation of IFPRI’s blog series on COVID-19 and the numerous associated virtual events. We will greatly miss her forward-looking leadership and strong commitment to IFPRI’s work.

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