Food and Nutritional Security amid COVID-19

Dr. Banarsi Lal, Dr. AS Charak
The COVID-19 pandemic has created public health emergency across the globe. India too has been severely affected by the ongoing health crisis. If proper measures are not taken then this pandemic can cause the food security crisis in India. Although supplies of fruits, vegetables, meats and staple food have been adequate during the lockdown but still there are threats of food security. Many organizations are making special efforts to run the agricultural sector smoothly so that the people will not have food insecurity at this critical time. Although lot of relaxation has been given to the agrarian sector but still there is impact of COVID-19 on the farming sector. Restrictions on transportation and movement of people have already affected the farming sector. It is predicted that the impact of the outbreak will spill over to food processing industries. Supply of processed food remains relatively abundant for the time being, but production may be affected by the lack of availability of agro-inputs and labour crunch. Presently the farmers are already struggling to harvest and sale their farm produce due to lack of transportation facilities, labour and poor market response. The deadly virus may have a long-standing influence on the agricultural sector. India needs to adopt the innovative approach to increase the crop productivity and to ensure the food security across the nation. Extra efforts are needed to provide the food to the people in a sustainable way. It is a fact that the present catastrophe will not spare the agricultural sector. Its long-term impact may reduce the demand due to the economic dip. The government may also give a limited backing due to limited fiscal space. There might be the reverse in the labour migration. So the target of government to double the farmers’ income may become tedious. The loss of earning sources are likely to reduce the demand of food. It will disturb the business of farmers and this can further disrupt the supply chain.
Global markets for the staple food are well supplied and prices are generally stable. Export restrictions are unwarranted and they can impact the food security in the food importing countries. There is dire need to avoid the food crisis globally and joint efforts are needed to overcome this crisis. By adopting the necessary precautionary measures global food markets can be opened to avoid the food crisis across the globe.COVID1-19 may affect the food production and may cause food insecurity. Lack of labour has already started to impact the food producers, processors, traders etc. Loss of income and jobs may reduce the people’s capacity to buy food. It is also predicted that people may feel food insecurity by the end of 2020.In conflict-affected areas food distribution may be difficult even without morbidity and social distancing. Extreme weather and pests and diseases effected countries may feel difficulty to mitigate their food problems. The poor countries who already are food insecure before COVID-19 may be badly affected by the pandemic. The countries with significant currency depreciation may also get hit badly by the COVID-19.There is need to closely monitor the domestic food and agricultural supply chain. There is also need to work on the loss of jobs and employment by the people and their ability to buy the food. Small and medium sized enterprises should be financed so that they can mitigate the demand of local communities during the pandemic. Self Help Groups (SHGs) should also be mobilized for mask and sanitizers making. They should also be supported for the value addition in fruits and vegetables during COVID-19 crisis so that they can generate money. Strenuous efforts are needed to continue the food supply chains. Nutri-gardens can also be promoted so that people can produce their needful vegetables in their kitchen gardens.
Quality of food affects our health and wellbeing. Nutritious food is becoming scarce. New innovations are needed in agriculture, food technology and biotechnology to increase the crops productivity and sustain the production. The available resources should be utilized judiciously. The ongoing lockdown needs to be reviewed properly and cluster specified restrictions are needed as it seems that pandemic will not be controlled in a short period. A multidisciplinary team should create more and more awareness about the COVID-19 among the people. There is need to facilitate the migrant workers to return to their jobs otherwise there can be great impact on the food security. There should be provision to provide the quality seeds to the farmers from public and private sectors. Amid the COVID-19 farmers need the quality seeds and other agro-inputs for the Kharif season. Quality machineries should also be provided to the farmers to sow their crops timely. Indigenous machineries can also be promoted to reduce the cost of cultivation. Subsidies are also needed for the farmers so that they can purchase them easily. Genetic engineering can also contribute in the food and nutrition benefits. Strenuous efforts are needed for the crops diversification. Nanotechnology can also be utilized to give a boost to the agriculture. Middlemen need to be eliminated by using the digitalization techniques in marketing.
Public-Private Partnerships can be promoted to give benefits to the farmers. Livestock sector should get the quality feed. Aquaculture farming should also be promoted to increase the nutrition in the diet of the people. The new knowledge generated in the agricultural research stations should be disseminated to the farmers to increase the crop production. Unification is required to improve the food security and nutrition across the nation. Farmers need the guidelines on the changing pattern of farming and they should also be guided on social distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene etc. during the COVID-19 time.
Also there is need to change the lifestyles and dietary patterns of the people. It is very important to upgrade the agricultural operations so that food production can be enhanced. Innovative methods to market the farm produce are very important. Both public and private sectors can play a significant role in strengthening the agricultural sector and to enhance the adoption rate of new technologies. Even after COVID-19 time agricultural sector can play a crucial role in restoring the economy of the nation. There is dire need to focus on the food quality and safety so as to mitigate the nutritional problem.