JUBA, April 7 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's food insecurity is set to worsen amid the current cereal deficit of 482,000 metric tonnes caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 in the youngest nation, the UN food agency warned on Tuesday.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed that the cereal deficit is expected to widen in the aftermath of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
"Crop production estimates for South Sudan for the 2020 consumption year, indicate that a cereal deficit of 482,000 metric tonnes is expected. This deficit is to be covered by imports from neighboring countries," said FAO in a statement issued in Juba.
FAO noted that this year, COVID-19 related border closures and restrictions from neighboring countries on cereal exports are likely to result in cereal shortages in South Sudan.
"South Sudan heavily relies on oil for income, but relatively little of this income is spent on improving food security and basic service delivery outcomes. However, these overall gains look to disappear during 2019/20 due to COVID-19 impacts. The situation is worsened by the ongoing oil price crisis that has led to prices falling as low as 24 U.S dollars per barrel," it disclosed.
According to the FAO, COVID-19 has led to a reduction in trade between Juba with neighboring countries, as traders are unable to readily access hard currency to facilitate imports.
FAO noted that the spread of the viral infectious disease has increased panic-driven demand that will lead to high food prices amid limited market supplies.
"Currently, there is a high demand for food commodities by consumers who are stocking up following fears that the government is likely to order the closure of most businesses in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Prices of food commodities are already showing price spikes," it said.
South Sudan on Sunday reported the first case of COVID-19 involving staff with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) who returned from the Netherlands.