Coronavirus South American countries discuss easing trade regulations for food supply

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Witthaya Prasongsin
© GettyImages/Witthaya Prasongsin

Related tags: COVID-19, Supply chain, Food security

South American agriculture ministers discuss harmonizing regulations to ease cross-border food supplies during the coronavirus / COVID-19 crisis as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that “lives and livelihoods will be lost” due to coronavirus.

The meeting was held this week at the request of Brazil’s minister of agriculture, livestock and supply, Tereza Cristina, to define rules guaranteeing food transport logistics.

"Our alignment at the highest political level is essential, which should also be reflected in agile and clear instructions for the operational plan to the border authorities​," she said.

The virtual meeting was attended by agriculture ministers of the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) as well as Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

Under the coordination of the Southern Agricultural Council (CAS), a ministerial forum that coordinates regional actions, the stakeholders agreed to draw up a document with approved protocols to guarantee free movement for the transportation of goods by road between countries, including Colombia.

The ministers also decided to create a communication channel on WhatsApp to exchange information as quickly as possible regarding possible problems.

"We need to anticipate what might happen in case the situation worsens​," said Tereza Cristina, adding that maintaining sanitary corridors guarantees not only exports but also local food supply.

"We have a great responsibility to join these efforts: guarantee the supply and maintenance of food chains, from producer to final consumer,"​ Cristina said.

Director-general  of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Manuel Otero said: "Today more than ever, in the face of this world emergency situation, it is necessary to maintain food supplies to the entire population, especially to the least favored sectors.”

FAO: Supply chain disruption expected as of April

This week the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned the world faced a looming food crisis, unless measures were taken fast to keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic's impacts across the food system.

Both lives and livelihoods are at risk from this pandemic. The disease is spreading quickly. This is no longer a regional issue—it is a global problem calling for a global response​,” it said.

Border closures and supply chain and trade disruptions could restrict people’s access to sufficient and nutritious sources of food, especially in countries hit hard by the virus or already affected by high levels of food insecurity, it said.

“We are already seeing […] challenges in terms of the logistics involving the movement of food (not being able to move food from point A to point B), and the pandemic’s impact on livestock sector due to reduced access to animal feed and slaughterhouses’ diminished capacity (due to logistical constraints and labor shortages) similar to what happened in China.

“As a result of the above as of April and May we expect to see disruptions in the food supply chains,” ​it added.

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