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Coronavirus highlights the fragility of the global food system

Since the beginning of this coronavirus crisis, which has already spread worldwide, the greatest concern for the population has been the guarantee of food supplies. Despite the reassuring messages made by different governments, the coronavirus has exposed the fragility of the global food system.

The reality is that both Spain and Europe have an extraordinary dependence on foreign markets and food imports, and not only that, but they are based on immigrant labor, which is often precarious and that can't now reach their countries due to the closure of borders. These events put at risk a good part of the fruit harvesting campaign, which shows that the community food system is highly exposed.

Almost a quarter of the workers affiliated to social security in the special agrarian regime are of foreign nationality. In some areas, such as Huelva, Almeria, Murcia or Albacete, that percentage rises to 40% and in fruit, and some vegetable areas, specific seasons depend up to 90% on seasonal workers who travel. As a result, Germany, for example, has already sounded alarms because the strawberry and asparagus harvest is already in danger due to the closure of borders.

In reality, this system is based on cheap oil, on the so-called long-distance-foods that travel an average distance of 5,000 km before reaching the consumer's plate. You may be tempted to associate long-distance-foods with exotic foods, but in reality, these products are a minority of the Spanish or European diet. In fact, traditional, local foods, such as chickpeas, lentils, wheat, oranges, apples, grapes, and melons, among others, are increasingly being brought from further away. In the last 10 years, Spanish food imports have grown by 66%

For example, the distance that 4 of the products that Barcelona imports - apples, grapes, rice, and potatoes - adds up to 39,000 km, i.e. almost like taking a world tour, when all these products could be found in a radius of less than 100 km from the city.

At this point, it could be necessary to debate if the current globalized system is really safe, or if a good part of the message rests on a neoliberal ideological framework, as it is known that local food systems, which are more territorial and based on internal and local markets, are more resilient and are key to achieving food security for the population and fighting climate change.

Many things will have to change once this crisis ends. One of them should be regaining of food sovereignty and betting once and for all on local food systems.



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