2021 Global Food Policy Report: Transforming Food Systems after COVID-19


The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a USA-based organisation, published this report on April 13, 2021. This is the tenth edition of IFPRI’s annual Global Food Policy series. This report studies the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on food systems across the globe. The Covid-19 pandemic increased poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition and unemployment worldwide, the report notes. It recommends policy actions to plug the deficiencies of current food systems and transform them for greater “resilience, inclusion, efficiency, sustainability, and nutrition.”

The 124-page document is divided into six chapters: Beyond the Pandemic: Transforming Food Systems after COVID-19 and Financing the Transformation to Healthy, Sustainable, and Equitable Food Systems (Chapter 1); Resilience: From Policy Responses to Resilient Policy Systems (Chapter 2); Nutrition: Transforming Food Systems to Achieve Healthy Diets for All (Chapter 3); Natural Resources and Environment: Governance for Nature-Positive Food Systems (Chapter 4); Towards Inclusive Food Systems: Pandemics, Vulnerable Groups, and the Role of Social Protection (Chapter 5); and Food Supply Chains: Business Resilience, Innovation, and Adaptation (Chapter 6).


  1. Citing The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020, the report notes that as many as three billion people across the world were unable to afford healthy diets before the Covid-19 pandemic. Loss of income due to the decline in economic activities during Covid-19 worsened the situation, especially in lower-middle-income countries. A 2021 article published in the journal Nature Food estimated that an additional 267.6 million people worldwide would be unable to afford healthy diets by the year 2022.

  2. Widespread food insecurity has led people to adopt low-quality diets. Such diets, though inexpensive, might cause long-term health and nutrition deficiencies. After the health emergency precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become even more pressing for food systems to guarantee healthy and affordable diets for all, the report notes.

  3. The report recommends adopting food policies based on local natural resources and ecosystems of a region. This is suggested to boost the health, sustainability and resilience of food systems. It will also help counter threats to food systems like zoonotic diseases (which can spread from animals to humans) and natural disasters.

  4. The Covid-19 pandemic worsened inequalities faced by vulnerable groups such as women, children, people working in the informal sector, migrant workers and refugees. The report advocates development of social protection programs to safeguard the interests of such groups.

  5. In December 2020, the World Bank undertook the task of evaluating social protection measures undertaken by 212 countries and territories during Covid-19. The report cites data from this survey and notes that most of the social protection measures initiated by the government were in the form of cash transfers, reaching around 1.1 billion people worldwide. However, 30 per cent of these payments were one-offs, meaning that they were paid only once. As few as seven per cent of the transfers continued for more than three months, the report adds.

  6. A meagre quarter of the 212 countries and territories considered in the research mentioned above were able to provide cash transfers to more than a third of their citizens. Average spending on social protection in low-income countries was as low as six dollars per capita, the report adds.

  7. For modernising food systems by investing in e-commerce and supply chains, the report stresses on the need for collaboration between public and private sectors. It advocates for the creation of employment opportunities and better livelihoods at different levels of the food supply chains.

  8. In Central Asian countries, the pandemic exposed vulnerabilities such as the growing effects of climate change, insecure commodity markets and dependence on remittances. Despite a robust agricultural sector, weaknesses in social safety programmes and poor digital connectivity in the region worsened the impact of Covid-19 on its food systems.

  9. Latin American countries, on average, were spending around 1.5 per cent of their GDP on social protection programmes before the pandemic, the report notes. It recommends more government spending on measures for social protection and greater investment in agricultural research.

    Focus and Factoids by Akshita Hazarika.

    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


International Food Policy Research Institute, USA


International Food Policy Research Institute, USA


13 Apr, 2021