Agriculture minister joins G-20 meet over Covid-19 impact on food safety

A farmer waits for his wheat produce procured at the New Grain Market amid ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Chandigarh. Photo: PTI
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar participated in an virtual meeting of G-20 Agriculture Ministers on Tuesday to address the issue of Covid-19 impacts on food security, safety and nutrition.

Sharing the measures taken to contain the spread of Coronavirus in India, Tomar informed his counterparts that India has decided to exempt all agriculture operations during lockdown period and ensuring continued availability of essential agriculture produce and supply, while adhering to protocol of social distancing, health and hygiene.

He said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been at the forefront of supporting countries to tide over this crisis in various ways and that agriculture will not lag behind.

The G-20 Agriculture Ministers virtual meeting was organized through video conferencing by the Saudi Presidency to deliberate on the ways and means of ensuring continuity of the food supply value chain including livelihood of farmers.

Agriculture Ministers of all G-20 members and the representatives of some guest countries and International organizations attended the meeting.

The G-20 nations resolved to have international cooperation in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, to avoid food wastage and losses, and maintain the continuity of food supply value chain across borders.

"We commit to cooperating closely and taking concrete actions to safeguard global food security and nutrition. We reaffirm the importance of working to ensure the continued flow of food, products, and input essential for agricultural and food production across borders in line with our Leaders' Statement on Covid-19 of March 26, 2020," read an official statement following the Agriculture Ministers meeting.

"We agree that emergency measures in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic must be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary and that they do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global food supply chains, and are consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules," the joint statement read.

In light of the #G20 role to protect global food security, Agriculture Ministers commit to implement collective measures to address the global environmental challenges amid #COVID19 pandemic.

— G20 Saudi Arabia (@g20org) April 21, 2020

The leaders also agreed "not to impose export restrictions or extraordinary taxes on food and agricultural products purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes by the World Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian agencies."

They further called on other members to continue providing timely and reliable information on global food market fundamentals to help markets, countries, and consumers make informed choices.

While acknowledging the critical role of the private sector in food systems, they called "for enhanced cooperation between the public and private sectors to help mobilize rapid and innovative responses to impacts of this pandemic on the agriculture and food sectors."

"We stress the need to strengthen the sustainability and resilience of food systems globally, including to future shocks from disease and pest outbreaks, and to the global challenges that drive these shocks," it read.

Lastly, they agreed to cooperate on several issues for a broader G20 agriculture and food agenda.

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