AGRICULTURE: Information session

Information Session on Covid-19 and Agriculture — Transparency for Food Security

The Covid-19 pandemic and   governments' policy responses to address its effects and aftershocks have jolted the global economy. Agriculture and food systems are not insulated from the dramatic impact the health crisis has had on the wider economy. The measures adopted at the onset of the crisis did lead to severe disruptions in global food supply chains exposing their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Some governments took recourse to export-limiting policies with a view to assuring domestic supplies of essential goods and foodstuffs. WTO Members as well as international organizations called, early on, for open international markets, functioning supply chains of essential goods and food products and required transparency in respect of all Covid-19 policy responses. Early analysis and regular market monitoring reports by the Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS) have shown that global food markets remain well supplied, and stock levels of essential crops and cereals are at record high levels, thus assuaging global food supply related concerns.

WTO Members first discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and governmental responses at a special meeting of the General Council on 15 May 2020. They later engaged at a special meeting of the Committee on Agriculture (CoA) on 18 June 2020 to collectively review the impact of Covid-19 on global agriculture and food systems within the framework of the Agreement on Agriculture. In anticipation of the potential challenges to international trade and supply chains, a number of Members, individually as well in various groups, have pledged and urged others to exercise restraint in applying export restrictions on essential items and foodstuffs.  Members also acknowledged during the June special meeting of the CoA, the limited use of export restrictions on agricultural goods during the Covid-19 pandemic, possibly a lesson learned from the 2007-08 global food crisis.

The importance of transparency and of the monitoring of Covid-19 agriculture measures has also been emphasized by Members. At the June special meeting of the CoA, it was agreed that Covid-19 and agriculture would be a standing item on the agenda of future meetings of the Committee so as to facilitate a collective review and information exchange on agricultural measures put in place by Members in response to Covid-19.   WTO Members also expressed an interest to invite experts from other international organizations and benefit from their work on the monitoring and analysis of Covid-19 agricultural measures. The Secretariat accordingly  organized an Information Session on 28 July in the margins of the July CoA meeting and invited the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),  the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFRPI), the International Grains Council (IGC) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) to present their Covid19-related work.

Invited speakers addressed the following broad issues in their presentations: i) Assessment of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the agriculture and food sector; ii) Overview of governments' agriculture and food policy responses to the pandemic; iii) Experience and modalities of tracking and monitoring  governmental measures in response to Covid-19; and iv) Suggestions and insights on possible ways to deal with the crisis and its aftershocks in the medium to long-term. The presentations were be followed by a questions and answers (Q&A) session.

Programme and Speakers

Maximo Torero

Maximo Torero is the Chief Economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy.

Presentation: Agri-food trade and COVID-19: policy responses, medium-term risks and possible solutions


Arnaud Petit

Arnaud Petit is the Executive Director of the International Grains Council (IGC) based in London.  

Presentation: Covid-19 crisis and the Grains/oilseeds and rice trade


David Laborde

David Laborde is a Senior Research Fellow and the Head of the Globalization and Markets research group at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) at Washington.

Presentation: Agricultural Trade in the era of Covid-19


Julia Spies

Julia Spies is an Economist and the head of Export Potential Map and Studies unit in the Division of Market Development at the International Trade Centre (ITC), Geneva.

Presentation: Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for trade in agricultural products




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