How food export powerhouse Latin America is responding to COVID-19

Though sometimes neglected in conversations of the pandemic’s impact, Latin America is a major player in the world’s food security.

May 19, 2020

The productivity and sustainability of our agriculture and food systems are constantly threatened by pandemic outbreaks of disease and pests. The Harvest 2050 blog is providing a weekly-updated list of resources and articles that explore the threats to agricultural productivity, food security, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability from diseases and pests that sicken and kill people, livestock, and crops.

The 2020 GAP Report will also explore these themes, as well as describing technologies, practices, and policies that foster productivity growth, while also mitigating the risks of pandemic disease and threats. 

We will keep this list current, so follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn, where we’ll share as we update this blog. Past resource lists are available here, and linked at the bottom of each blog.

A powerhouse in food and agriculture exports

Latin America is a global breadbasket.

It’s home to nearly one-third of the world’s arable land and fresh water1 and a leading contributor to the global food system. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (ABPU) together are the largest net exporters of food and agriculture products in the world.2

But Latin America is sometimes overlooked in conversations about the current pandemic’s impact on the world’s food security. Just as other regions struggle with maintaining supply chains and global trade while trying to keep workers safe from the virus, Latin America has experienced shutdowns that disrupt their ability to provide food, feed, fiber, and bioenergy to Latin Americans and the world at large.

Latin America is crucial for global food security over the next few decades. Already an agricultural powerhouse, the continent provides 60 percent of the world’s imported soybeans, 44 percent of imported beef and a third of the corn that countries buy from abroad. And experts say the region is fully capable of doubling its farm output by 2030.3

This week, we’re focusing on how Latin America is mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic particularly in the areas of food security and trade, given the region’s importance in the global food scene.

An elderly woman poses for a portrait.
Credit: Curt Carnemark / World Bank


Associations Of Agronomists, Veterinarians And Agricultural Economists Of The Americas Will Work Together With IICA To Develop Post-COVID-19 Agricultural And Trade Protocols (International Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture; May 18, 2020)

  • Representatives and experts from Pan-American associations are taking a multidisciplinary approach to address the challenges facing the rural sector and looking at ways to strengthen professional training to foster the effective use of technological tools.

Food Security Monitor for the Americas (International Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture; May 14, 2020)

COVID-19 pandemic halts global trade of potatoes and cereals, creating a food security challenge (International Potato Center; May 7, 2020)

  • As a result of responses to COVID-19, millions of tons of potatoes will not be processed this year, representing a massive threat for farmers and processors.

Highways of Peru Swell With Families Fleeing Virus (The New York Times; April 30, 2020)

  • Peru, one of the Latin American countries worst hit by the pandemic, is experiencing a reverse exodus wherein at least 167,000 Peruvians in urban areas are requesting assistance to move to rural areas.

As COVID-19 threatens global food security, fresh potato is back on the tables of millions (International Potato Center; April 20, 2020)

  • Potato’s importance skyrocketed during the pandemic as people stocked up and found potatoes to be relatively shelf stable compared to other fresh vegetables. While the pandemic affects supply chains of many different food products, potatoes have experienced a unique impact.

Covid-19 spike hits at peak soy export season (Diálogo Chino; April 15, 2020)

  • China depends on imports for soy, but the prevalence of COVID-19 is spiking in two countries that are some of the world’s largest soy exporters: Brazil and Argentina. 

11 international organizations join hands to secure food systems, agriculture, and trade during the COVID-19 pandemic (FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean; April 9, 2020)

  • “Eleven international organizations agreed to pool their efforts to help Latin American and Caribbean countries secure their food systems and maintain agriculture and food trade during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”




[1]: Truitt Nakata, G. and Zeigler, M. The Next Global Breadbasket: How Latin America Can Feed the World. Inter-American Development Bank and Global Harvest Initiative. Washington, DC. (2014).

[2]: Global Food Security and Agricultural Natural Resources—Role and Views of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguary. (2013). Grupo de Paises Productores del Sur.

[3]: Healthy Agricultural Systems: A New Model for Agriculture and the Environment in Latin America,” Global Agricultural Productivity Report.


Past Resource Lists

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