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COVID-19 and food security in the Pacific: considerable challenges with an opportunity to "build back better"

Subsistence farming Food production Agriculture Food security Pacific Area

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to exacerbate pre-existing food security challenges across the South Pacific. The pandemic has disrupted some supply chains in the region, leaving some areas with a more limited range of food products. Lockdowns and the associated economic downturn has restricted the sale of local produce and weakened the financial strength of households. Most Pacific Islanders have resorted to traditional coping mechanisms, based largely on subsistence agriculture, artisanal fishing and family and village social networks.

While the pandemic has presented considerable challenges to the region it also presents an opportunity to "build back better" in its aftermath. Agricultural development could stand to benefit, particularly in the large Melanesian countries that have significant agricultural potential.

Key points:

  • While the health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have been limited in most Pacific Island Countries, the economic implications are severe.
  • Lower access to international markets could reduce dietary diversity with poor outcomes for nutritional health.
  • A reduction in tourism and a decline in the flow of remittances has reduced household income, leaving a large portion of the Pacific population with weaker food security. Extreme poverty is also likely to increase significantly.
  • Agricultural development could form the basis for 'building back better" after the pandemic has passed, especially in the larger Melanesian countries of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji.
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