And, while the crisis will likely impact food security through other significant channels, such as the effects on incomes (link), understanding the potential food price and hunger impacts specifically from trade bans demonstrates how harmful these policies can be to efforts to withstand this shock. To better understand these specific impacts, we use IFPRI’s IMPACT model (link) to simulate the potential effects of such measures in markets for wheat and rice—the two crops attracting most trade restrictions at the moment.
The modeling suggests that prices could rise significantly due to such export bans and, with these actions in the rice and wheat markets alone, as many as 18 million more people worldwide could face chronic hunger in 2020 as a result.
Some governments have responded to alarms about possible COVID-19-related food shortages much as consumers would: By trying to hoard food. A number of countries have limited exports of key staple food commodities to protect domestic supplies. Timothy Sulser and Shahnila Dunston assess the possible impacts of such export constraints for the two most affected markets, rice and wheat. They conclude that international rice markets are particularly sensitive to such restrictions by large exporters—modeling shows they could significantly boost global prices and push millions of poor rice consumers into hunger.—Johan Swinnen, series co-editor and IFPRI Director General.