Agri-food sector and COVID-19 pandemic

25 June 20202 min reading

Editor/ Namık Kemal Parlak

The coronavirus pandemic, which spread across more than 180 countries, has almost taken the world hostage. The pandemic, which killed thousands of people, put tremendous pressure on the global food supply chain as well as the healthcare system. While the supply-demand balance in the grain markets suddenly deteriorates, the governments have taken measures such as banning grain exports, primarily wheat and rice and suspending flour sales abroad to ensure their food security. There are some concerns that this health crisis would transform into a food crisis.

However, despite uncertainties posed by COVID-19 pandemic, FAO's first forecasts for the 2020/21 season point to a comfortable grain supply and demand situation. Early prospects suggest global grain production in 2020 surpassing the previous year's record by 2.6 percent. According to FAO’s 2020 Food Outlook – Biannual Report on Global Food Markets report, global wheat production in 2020 is forecast to fall slightly below the 2019 level, while the dampening effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on demand could still push up global inventories. The prospect of a modest gain in 2020/21 world trade, amid tighter export availability, could support international wheat prices. World rice production is set to recover in 2020, boosting rice utilization and keeping carry-overs at their third-highest level on record. While economic constraints and firm prices may curb trade growth in 2020, a more robust trade expansion is projected for 2021.

World cereal trade in 2020/21 is projected to stand at 433 million tonnes, up 2.2 percent (9.4 million tonnes) from 2019/20, and setting a new record high, boosted by expected expansions in the trade of all major cereals.

“Food markets will face many more months of uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, while most markets are braced for a major global economic downturn, the agri-food sector is likely to display more resilience to the crisis than other sectors.” the report said.

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