Food in market Hanoi
Photo Credit: J. Hodur/A4NH

Food systems exist at local, regional, and global scales that are inextricably linked. The size of industries that support our global food systems have created incredible efficiencies characterized by highly complex supply chains, honed through fierce competition.

Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of the food borne by the consumer is perhaps the lowest it has ever been in history. The economies of scale and specialization necessary to produce food at such a low cost means that it is often cheaper to buy food products that have been shipped around the world than through local or regional food systems. This creates a significant barrier to growth for businesses in emerging economies who do not have the same access to capital (both human and financial), infrastructure, and technology. And, while efficient and resilient in the face of localized shocks, particularly in developed economies, food systems may not have the flexibility to adapt to the shock of a pandemic with varying consequences across the globe.

According to a recent assessment, Africa, particularly sub-Saharan countries, will be impacted by trade restrictions, whereas the countries in South Asia are more likely to be impacted by the loss of productivity. In this blog we focus on how the pandemic will have rippling impacts on trade as food system actors experience loss of income and supply chains, including agricultural production, food processing, and food retail, close or are seriously disrupted.