As the coronavirus pandemic continues, one challenge continues to be access to food and groceries. Shelter-in-place orders around the world have made it harder for residents, especially the elderly, to shop frequently. Plus, with entire business ecosystems shutting down and wreaking havoc on economies worldwide, people already have much less money to buy the things that they need, especially in Latin America.
Still, 25 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean signed an agreement this week, making their plans to coordinate with one another public so that people are aware of how they’re working to ensure food systems continue operating in order to feed approximately 620 million consumers in the region. Experts have already warned that the effects of COVID-19 could hit these countries hard (given their fragile economies and infrastructure).
The Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently outlined the main points of the statement, which was signed by ministers and secretaries of agriculture, livestock, fisheries, food and rural development of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominicana, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Uruguay.
The countries declare, among other things, that their markets currently have enough food to ensure supplies and that “there are no reasons that justify significant increases in international food prices.”
“We call on all actors in the food system to prevent speculation at this time of emergency,” the statement reads. If food systems do become overwhelmed, the countries have promised to “act in coordination, exchanging information and good practices” to monitor food supply chains and offer whatever financial assistance is necessary to keep things moving.
While the declaration is a mass coordination effort to keep food moving through certain regions, individual access to money, resources, and food is a separate problem. The Associated Press recently reported on the situation in Peru, where some families in need have resorted to begging for food no one wants at markets. Many of them have jobs as street vendors, work that has become scarce and complicated with people taking social distancing precautions. While Peru has been distributing roughly $400 million to feed poor demographics, but that money is often not enough and speaks to the myriad ways the pandemic is already affecting high-risk communities.