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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The journey from field to plate has been interrupted in our locked down world.

Why it matters: With some crops rotting in fields and others subject to export bans, the coronavirus crisis could cause shortages in richer countries and hunger in poorer ones.

In Europe, as in North America, the harvest depends on migration. 

  • German asparagus, French strawberries and Italian tomatoes are picked by Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians.
  • Harder borders are now limiting movement, and workers are reluctant to travel due to fears of infection or quarantine.
  • Officials across Western Europe have declared farmhands critical workers. They've also called on newly unemployed people to take to the fields — the French agriculture minister called for a “shadow army” of waiters, hairdressers and hotel staff.
  • It's not so simple. “Dutch people are used to working Monday to Friday, nine to five. But the asparagus keeps growing seven days a week,” one farmer told the Economist.

In India, the food supply depends on tens of millions of people working in farms, transporting food, and selling it in wholesale markets and at small stands.

  • When the national lockdown snapped into place, gaps appeared all along that chain.
  • “All the eateries on the highways are closed. I have nothing to eat,” a truck driver attempting to deliver tomatoes to New Delhi told the Wall Street Journal. “Everyone says we should keep delivering essential supplies. But the supply link can continue only if we survive.”

Fearing a prolonged crisis, some countries have halted exports of key foodstuffs — rice from Vietnam, wheat from Kazakhstan, fish from Cambodia.

  • That could have serious downstream effects for poor countries that import most of their food, the Washington Post notes, though other big exporters plan to keep trade flowing.

The bottom line: "There is enough food, but food and other essential commodities must keep moving," John Crisci, supply chain director at the UN World Food Program tells Axios. "We cannot let this health crisis turn into a food crisis."

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

FDA authorizes Abbott's $5 rapid COVID-19 test

Results from the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test will be available in roughly 15 minutes. Photo: Courtesy of Abbott Laboratories.

Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday it received emergency use authorization (EAU) from the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 test that works without lab equipment.

The big picture: Abbott said it will ramp up production of its "highly portable," $5 tests to 50 million by the beginning of October.

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Carson: It would "behoove" us to move forward with COVID-19 vaccine and treatment testing

Screenshot: Axios Events

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says "this is not necessarily the time to take everything slowly" when it comes to the Trump administration's approach to getting vaccines and treatments to the public.

Why it matters: Carson's comments, made Wednesday during an Axios virtual event, came days after the Food and Drug Administration announced an emergency use authorization (EUA) for treating the coronavirus with convalescent plasma. President Trump accused the agency of slow-walking the development and approval of vaccines and therapeutics to hurt him politically.