Digital innovations accelerated by COVID-19 are revolutionizing food systems: Implications for the UN Food Systems Summit
BY THOMAS REARDON, JOHAN SWINNEN, ROB VOS AND DAVID ZILBERMAN
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major shock to food supply chains, as lockdowns and restrictions affecting labor supply, input provisioning, logistics, and distribution channels severely compromised poor consumers’ access to food. Yet it could have been worse; food systems have also shown resilience and innovative capacity to adjust. The new constraints led firms in a number of developing countries to innovate, scaling up the digitalization of food supply chains. This widespread adoption of e-commerce by large and small retailers and food service (restaurant) enterprises served an important role in ensuring food access to consumers.
Many businesses pivoted their operations, i.e., made fundamental shifts in businesses practices in response to the shocks or the new opportunities they saw. Here we discuss how e-commerce rose to meet the pandemic challenge and argue that enabling its continued development is an important approach to food system resilience in the face of future shocks. These developments have important implications for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), whose principal themes include building resilience of food systems to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stress; and promoting food security and improving access to nutritious foods.
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