13 Nov 2020

Pacific warned of food crisis

6:34 am on 13 November 2020

Australian research shows the Covid-19 pandemic could spark a food crisis in the Pacific.

The report is the work of CSIRO and the Australian National University.

A Taro plant

A Taro plant Photo: RNZI/Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

Published this week by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, or ACIAR, the report warns the pandemic is exacerbating existing threats to food security and has long-term implications for the Asia/Pacific region.

The Pacific already faced challenges from climate change and destructive weather events, biosecurity threats, and difficulties with transport links, all of which had been heightened by pandemic.

ACIAR chief executive, Professor Andrew Campbell, said the report suggests it makes a food crisis possible.

"Coming growing seasons might be more difficult than current ones and that pre-existing vulnerabilities have been amplified by the pandemic and responses to the pandemic."

Campbell said it is important that regional trade in food is maintained and countries get the balance right between imports and local production.

He said the renewed reliance on home-grown food had been a silver lining from the pandemic and the aim of organisations like his was to ensure this could be broadened.

"Looking forward and thinking how we can improve things like composting and recycling farm resources, particularly in the nutrient poor islands, so that we are making the best use of the nutrients that do exist and that we are getting local production of healthy foods.

"And that's got to be a significant policy objective over coming years."

Coconut trees

Coconut trees Photo: AFP