Food and Nutrition Items for Consumption Photo: File

FAO, AU express commitment to Africans’ access to foods, nutrition

* Border closures restrict trade, limit food availability in many countries ─FAO Chief

Web Editor | ConsumerConnect

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) have expressed commitment to supporting access to food and nutrition for Africa’s most vulnerable amid the current distressing impacts of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The FAO and AU, in a statement Sunday, April 19, stated that the transport and marketing of goods and services, keeping borders open on the continent for the food and agriculture trade would be supported.

The organisations have also agreed on the need to provide Africans with social safety nets and to minimise disruptions to the safe movement of essential people.

They described the food and agriculture system as “an essential service that must continue to operate during periods of lockdown, emergency, curfew and other containment measures.”

It was learnt that the agreement was reached at a gathering co-organised by the AU and FAO and convened via a virtual conference.

All 55 African Union member-states were represented with 45 at the ministerial level. The debate was moderated by Josefa Sacko, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture.

QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General, said quick, strategic action was needed to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security in Africa.

Dongyu stated that “border closures restrict trade and limit food availability in many countries, particularly those dependent on food imports.”

He, therefore, expressed support for measures that do not lead to disruptions in food supply chains.

In the same vein, Angela Thoko Didiza, South Africa Minister for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development cautioned against any move to weaken inter-regional trade.

Both officials highlighted the toll taken by lockdowns on a continent where informal markets, rather than supermarkets, provide a lifeline for most consumers.

Maximo Torero, FAO’s Chief Economist, pointed to growing evidence of logistical strains in food markets – strains which Qu suggested should be mitigated by “shortening the chain”, producing more, better, and locally, if possible.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), warned of risks to social stability if food and cash were to run low among Africa’s urban residents.

Many government representatives described strenuous efforts at bolstering up welfare benefits, often at great cost to national budgets.

Likewise, Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture, outlined an EU support package for Africa that should eventually exceed $20 billion.

The World Bank’s Simeon Ehui also detailed support initiatives, including the possibility of re-purposing $3.2 billion in uncommitted funding.

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