Addressing COVID-19 impacts on agriculture, food security, and livelihoods in India

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With COVID-19 now spreading in India, massive consequences to health and livelihoods are feared, and the government has imposed a 21-day national lockdown to limit virus transmission. Given the precarious livelihoods of many Indians, agriculture, food security, and safety net policy and program responses are also urgently required. Prof. Mahendra Dev, an experienced academic and policy maker in India, provides additional insights into what actions and reforms are needed, and soon.—John McDermott, series co-editor and Director, CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).

India has taken early action to limit the spread of COVID-19, ordering a 21-day nationwide lockdown for its population of 1.3 billion people starting March 25. The novel coronavirus has spread widely in India relatively recently compared to other countries, and the number of reported infections is low so far, with 5,274 cases and 149 deaths as of April 8. However, as COVID-19 cases are increasing fast, there is great concern about the disease’s potential spread and impact. India has to be ready for a possible surge. Testing should be expanded significantly. The government views the pattern of the spread of COVID-19 as similar to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, meaning the spread is unlikely to be uniform. After the 21-day period expires, it is planning to maintain the full lockdown in “hotspot” areas and relax it in other places.

These measures may help in limiting the health crisis, but—as in other countries—the complete shutdown of all economic activities except essential services will create an economic crisis and misery for the poor, with massive job losses and rising food insecurity.

This blog post is part of a special series of analyses on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on national and global food and nutrition security, poverty, and development. The blog series is edited by IFPRI director general Johan Swinnen and A4NH director John McDermott. See the full series here.

Photo credit: Suprabhat/Shutterstock

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