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COVID-19 and the Food and Agriculture Sector: Issues and Policy Responses

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis that is already having devastating impacts on the world economy –both directly and through necessary measures to contain the spread of the disease. These impacts are also being felt by the food and agriculture sector. While the supply of food has held up well to date, in many countries, the measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus are starting to disrupt the supply of agro-food products to markets and consumers, both within and across borders. The sector is also experiencing a substantial shift in the composition and –for some commodities –the level of demand.How damaging these impacts turn out to be for food security, nutrition and the livelihoods of farmers, fishers and others working along the food supply chain will depend in large part on policy responses over the short, medium and long term. In the short term, governments must manage multiple demands –responding to the health crisis, managing the consequences of the shock to the economy, and ensuring the smooth functioning of the food system. While the pandemic poses some serious challenges for the food system in the short term, it is also an opportunity to accelerate transformations in the food and agriculture sector to build its resiliencein the face of a range of challenges, including climate change.

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