India assures support for stable global food supply amid COVID-19 crisis

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Farmers plant saplings in a rice field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
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New Delhi: India on Tuesday promised support in ensuring 'stable' global food supply through its agri-export policy amid concerns over food security in South Asia following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Unlike many countries, India's food security has not been hit as the government has taken timely measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, it said at the 35th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) hosted by Bhutan.

The four-day virtual conference, which began on Tuesday, was convened to closely examine the present situation of the region's food security in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations' body said in a statement.

"Indian government has taken prompt measures to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic which coincided with rabi harvesting," the statement quoted Alka Bhargava, additional secretary in the agriculture ministry, as saying.

The government relaxed restrictions during the rabi (winter) harvest which resulted in bumper crop, while timely supply of inputs to the farmers in the ongoing kharif (summer) sowing operations led to a 20 per cent increase in sowing area when compared to previous year, she said.

The official also underscored the government initiative to bring three farm legislations, which helped in decongesting the market.

Agriculture Commissioner S K Malhotra assured the participating countries that "India will support in ensuring stableglobal food supply through its agri-export policy."

He added that India has achieved record foodgrain production and successfully controlled trans-boundary pests like fall armyworm and desert locusts.

Meanwhile, FAO observed that the Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world's undernourished and with COVID-19, the number of hungry people in Southern Asia is projected to rise by nearly a third to 330 million by 2030.

New ways are required to battle the twin pandemics -- COVID-19 and climate change to increase resilience across food systems, it said.

"We must come to terms with what is before us and recognize that the world and our region has changed.

"We must find new ways to move forward and ensure sustainable food security in the face of these twin pandemics, as well as prepare for threats that can and will evolve in the future," said Jong-Jin Kim, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

The four-day conference will also highlight FAO's recently launched comprehensive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme designed to provide a flexible and coordinated global response that aims to ensure access to nutritious food for everyone.

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