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Keep global food supply chains intact – WTO, UN agencies urge

GENEVA, March 31 (Reuters) – Food supply chains must be protected from any trade-related measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, the heads of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and U.N. food and health agencies said on Tuesday, warning of possible shortages and price spikes.

They voiced concern that disruptions to the movement of agricultural and food industry workers or food containers could result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste and said protectionism was also a risk.

“Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market,” WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo, and the heads of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization Qu Dongyu said.

“Such reactions can alter the balance between food supply and demand, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility.”

Such measures are particularly damaging to low-income, food-deficit countries and aid agencies’ food procurement for those in desperate need, the joint statement said.

Azevedo said last week that WTO projections show the economic downturn and job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic would be worse than the 2008 recession. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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