How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact food security and virtual water “trade”?
Hussam Hussein, Departmental Lecturer and Research Fellow in International Relations, explores COVID-19's possible impact on food and water systems, in an Opinion Paper for Future of Food: Journal on Food, Agriculture and Society.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact food security and virtual water “trade”? This is not an easy question as we must consider the multifaceted and complex nature of the aspects and variables at play. Aspects to consider are both the global food supply system and access to food. The global food system is based on food production, food processing, food transport and trade. Furthermore, elements which could be affected by the virus are the food retailing sector and the income of final consumers. It is also necessary to look at how the pandemic impacts people’s access to food in rich and poor economies, in rural and urban settings. The question therefore is, how is the pandemic impacting all these different aspects? Current studies have connected how the current food-system plays a determinant role in the use of irrigation water worldwide (1). When food is traded, the consequent “trade” of water embedded in food – virtual water “trade”- happens in parallel (1). Thus, if any disruption or greater change is going to happen in the current food-trade and food patterns, a parallel change in global virtual water trade is likely to follow.