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On Friday, July 8, Johan Swinnen joined Markus’ Academy for a lecture on Global Food Security in Times of Conflict, Covid, and Climate change. Swinnen is Global Director of Systems Transformation, CGIAR, and Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Watch the full presentation below. You can also watch all Markus’ Academy webinars on the Markus’ Academy YouTube channel.


[0:00] Introductory Remarks
[8:48] Recent trends in poverty and food insecurity
[26:42] Impact of Covid-19 on global food insecurity
[41:59] Shocks and trade restrictions
[53:01] Takeaways

Executive Summary

  • [0:00] Introductory Remarks. The world food market is generally segmented due to trade protection, while fertilizer is less so. Segmentation has important implications on risk sharing within a society. With segmented markets, a bad harvest leads to price increases, which stabilizes overall revenue for the farmers. Farmers are partially insured, and consumers bear the risk. With open markets, consumers bear less risk. Resilience is necessary for the global food supply, and can benefit from substitutability, changes in personal habits, and new technology.
  • [8:48] Recent trends in poverty and food insecurity. In 2013, the trends suggested movement towards the end of poverty and hunger, but both trends globally reversed in the following years. Malnutrition takes many forms and is tremendously prevalent worldwide– even within countries, there is tremendous variation in nutrition. The food system is a large part of both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. There may be a correlation between increasing global temperatures and the increasing shift in food insecurity. As GDP per capita dropped as well as TFP in certain areas, there has been greater food insecurity. There is also a correlation with more displaced people worldwide. Recently, conflict has been a primary driver of food crises, even more than Covid-19.
  • [26:42] Impact of Covid-19 on global food insecurity. Covid had a huge impact on global poverty, particularly in sub-saharan Africa and South Asia. Around the world, fruits, vegetables and animal product consumption decreased, while staples increased, likely because of relative prices. Food and nutrition security of the poor has been disproportionately affected, largely because of the disruptions in food chains and public programs, less access to health services, and the larger share of income spent on food. Covid-19 disrupted public services and food programs, and food security indicators in many countries show that these effects are across the board. Women and girls have been especially vulnerable, which could have lasting impacts in the future, meaning that we need to adapt policy and improve programming that will help women as well. Surveys in Myanmar show that the economic impacts of Covid were larger than health and social impacts, though food supply chains adjusted relatively quickly. However, household income and job loss had a severe impact. While the farming sector had a sizable disruption to the value change, the impact was far stronger in service industries, which meant that overall impact from Covid was relatively evenly distributed between urban and rural areas.
  • [41:59] Shocks and trade restrictions. Following the Food Price Crisis, Covid-19 Crisis, and Ukraine Crisis, there was a strong increase in export restrictions at first, but following the failures of the Food Price Crisis, the same strategies were not maintained during the Covid Crisis. Real food prices in Ukraine had already been at record highs prior to the war, yet the invasion caused a massive spike in maize and wheat prices. Recently, price shocks have been extremely common, and we may need to start thinking of volatility as a norm rather than an exception. Fertilizer production is difficult in its reliance on Russian nutrients and the role of sanctions, but other countries may try to start scaling up production to serve as a substitute.
  • [53:01] Takeaways. The situation looks bleak right now, and the combination of Conflict, Covid, and Climate Change does hurt people, particularly the poor. However, the resilience developed throughout Covid may shed light on possible avenues going forward.