TACOMA, Washington — Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, malnutrition rates have increased globally. Under these circumstances, SMEs may allow for faster and more cost-effective transportation for food to impoverished communities than the global supply chain can maintain. As such, SMEs can reduce global malnutrition through its effective, local strategies.
Global Supply Chains
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are varied and widespread, and it has caused the disruption of many global supply chains. One of these affected chains is global food transportation. The global food supply chain has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, with experts estimating that it is one of the most severely affected global supply chains.
Because of this, global hunger and malnutrition rates are predicted to increase in the wake of the pandemic. While the World Food Programme estimates that the number of food impoverished people around the world was at 135 million before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the estimate has recently jumped to 256 million as a result of the pandemic.
What’s more, this disruption of the global food supply chain is predicted to have a direct impact on global poverty. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the pandemic is likely to push nearly 140 million people into extreme poverty by the end of the year.
The negative economic effects of the pandemic are predicted to exacerbate the global malnutrition problem further. Researchers estimate that decreases in GNI per capita due to the effects of COVID-19 could lead to a 14.3% higher rate of malnutrition-related wasting among children 5 years old or younger.
Small-and-Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)
Due to the fractures in the global food supply chain that the pandemic has caused, countries are relying on local supply systems to meet the nutritional needs of their impoverished communities. In particular, “small-and-medium-sized enterprises,” or SMEs, may provide a system of food distribution that is superior to global systems when it comes to reducing malnutrition.
Already, domestic food supply systems are estimated to supply anywhere from 75% to 90% of the food eaten in South Asia and the southern part of Africa. For these nations, the disruption of the global food supply chain puts significant pressure on domestic food systems to provide for these regions.
One of the clearest benefits of using SMEs instead of relying on the global food supply chains is in the locality of SMEs. Domestic food supply chains, a category which SMEs fall under, allow for quicker transport of food supplies to the communities in need than global supply chains. This reduces the need for costly refrigeration in food transportation used to keep the food from spoiling. A lower rate of food perishability when transporting food supplies would likely result in a greater amount of edible food being provided to impoverished communities, and therefore in decreased malnutrition rates among these communities.
SMEs for the Economic Growth of Developing Nations
In addition, SMEs are important for the economic growth of developing countries. In July 2018, it was estimated that nearly 33% of the GDP and more than half of the jobs created in global developing markets were due largely to SMEs. The increased number of job opportunities that SMEs provide gives impoverished individuals in developing countries more secure incomes, which helps them to afford the food needed to feed their families.
It may be that the most effective way to address the rise in global malnutrition in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is for developing nations to build upon the local food supply systems already instated. SMEs may allow for faster and more cost-effective transportation of food to impoverished communities while also providing members of these communities with new economic opportunities. By leaning into SMEs rather than global food supply chains, developing countries may be able to reduce global malnutrition significantly.