Disruptions in domestic food supply chains are a pressing issue as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, World Bank President David Malpass told reporters on a tele-briefing on Friday.
Labour shortages are impacting logistics and loss of jobs and income has impacted people’s ability to afford food, he said.
Also read: How the coronavirus crisis is affecting food supply
“So we have a double problem of both the supply and the demand sides being disrupted in such a critical area as food and agricultural supply chains,” Mr. Malpass said, making specific references to the situation in parts of Africa in this context.
The Bank would have pandemic-related programmes in 100 countries by the end of April, Mr. Malpass said, with $160 billion of financing over the next 15 months, $50 billion of which will be on grant and highly concessional terms. India had received a $1 billion health sector emergency loan from the World Bank earlier in April.
“We’re expecting a major global recession — our estimates suggest a much deeper downturn than the Great Recession [2007-09],” he said. The World Bank had recently projected a 1.5%-2.8% growth rate in this fiscal year.
Also read: Coronavirus | World could face a food crisis: UN, WTO
Earlier in the day, as per his prepared remarks to the Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s shareholders at the Development Committee, Mr. Malpass had pointed to the “huge” capital outflow from developing countries in the COVID-19 context and suggested steps to improve debt transparency and investment quality that, Mr. Malpass said, were critical to reversing these capital flows.
No free ride
Mr. Malpass also told the Development Committee that commercial creditors of governments should not “free ride” and need to help sovereign debt reduction efforts.
He expected governments that are part of the International Development Association (a group of 76 of the poorest World Bank Group member countries — India is not a member) to get credit on similar terms from commercial creditors, he said.
Days ago, the G20 group of countries agreed to freeze bilateral loan repayments from 76 countries that are eligible for IDA assistance.
In response to a question on countries restricting export of medical supplies, Mr. Malpass said he hoped countries would not use the crisis to close or block markets and suggested a barter system.
“We should allow markets to function, markets to clear, and the supplies to go to those most in need.”