Millions of people forced to stay at home because of quarantines around the world are running out of money and patience. Food shortages caused by the destruction of supply chains can cause riots even in rich countries. Social conflicts are already brewing in Europe and the United States.
The hunger games
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the lives of millions of people. Ineffective political decisions will trigger a food crisis, and this will lead to a large — scale humanitarian disaster,” qu Dongyu, Director General of the Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO), said last week.
He noted that the coronavirus outbreak, with all the accompanying quarantine measures, created major logistical problems. “There is enough food in the world to feed everyone,” said the head of the FAO. — But there is a great risk that the products may not be in one place or another.”
FAO calls for “global coordinated and consistent” action to minimize supply disruptions. And most importantly: Qu Zonghu considers unacceptable restriction of food exports.
“Such restrictions will result in serious disruptions in the global market, prices will soar, and food will become inaccessible to many,” he concluded. In this situation, large-scale social conflicts are possible even in rich countries.
FAO’s concern is justified. Vietnam, one of the top three rice exporters in the world, has suspended exports of this cereal. Kazakhstan has banned the export of wheat flour, buckwheat and vegetables, including onions, carrots and potatoes. Russia does not sell buckwheat and rice abroad, while Belarus does not sell buckwheat, onion and garlic.
Western experts with horror discussing what will happen if Russia is the largest exporter of wheat — will stop supply of grain. Not surprisingly, wheat on the Chicago Mercantile exchange rose 11% in two weeks.
“We are at the limit”
Due to the closure of borders, there is a catastrophic shortage of workers in low-level positions in the agro-industrial complex that traditionally belong to migrant workers. There is no one to harvest the crops on the farms, almost no one left in the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, and even transporting food is a big problem.
In order to avoid a collapse in agriculture, the European Union, despite the risk of increasing the epidemic, allowed the entry of “critical workers”, including seasonal harvest workers and truck drivers.
However, this will not help the population with money. The other day, leading Western media replicated a video from social networks in which a resident of the Italian city of Palermo says that after his family was quarantined for three weeks, he did not have a cent left, and his daughter, “like many other children in the city,” has the last piece of bread.
“People have been locked up for 15-20 days and they are at the limit,” he warned. — You will regret this, we will have a revolution.”
Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando told reporters that the risk of mass riots in southern Italy is very high, because the discontent of citizens is going to use criminal structures that seek to “destabilize the system”.
“The more time passes, the fewer resources are left. People’s few savings are running out. Soon there will be socio-economic difficulties, ” Orlando is sure.
Italian Minister for the southern regions Giuseppe Provenzano also noted the increase in social tensions and the possibility of civil unrest in poor regions of the country. “I am afraid that the concern of a large part of the population about health, income and the future will soon turn into anger and hatred,” he said in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper.
According to the newspaper, in Palermo and Naples, the police had to take under guard supermarkets-after several incidents of looting. In social networks, there are even offers to take part in a RAID on a particular store.
Matter of time
American experts have no doubt that the situation in the United States will soon follow the “Italian scenario”. This is facilitated by at least three factors. The first is financial. In two weeks, the number of new applications for unemployment benefits has approached ten million. In April, this figure is widely expected to grow by another three or four times.
Meanwhile, according to a survey by the analytical company GOBankingRates, in December, 69% of Americans had less than a thousand dollars in a savings account, including 45% of respondents admitted that they do not have any savings at all and live from paycheck to paycheck. It is clear that they could not stock up on food and basic necessities when the epidemic began, and now many have lost their earnings and are left with nothing.
According to the newspaper Gmail, only in Los Angeles, the number of visitors to the free canteen for the homeless Skid Row has tripled. “Charities are overloaded with requests for help, and their financial resources are being depleted,” the newspaper notes.
So soon millions of Americans will have to find new ways to feed themselves and their families. And these methods will not always be legal.
The second factor is the lack of food. American food stores have not recovered their stocks after the March rush. And it’s not just mad people buying toilet paper by the hundreds.
Usually 36% of Americans eat out — in cafes, eateries, restaurants. However, due to the quarantine, the catering service has closed, now everyone cooks at home and, accordingly, buys food in supermarkets. The American trading system is simply not designed for this.
Finally, the epidemic has disrupted many public services, including law enforcement. Hundreds of police officers in new York, Detroit, Los Angeles and other cities have fallen ill with COVID-19. To avoid new infections, local authorities limit the list of reasons for the departure of the police squad.
In particular, in Cincinnati, police will not come in case of dog bites, license plate theft, phone harassment, or property damage. Reports of domestic violence or theft will also be ignored “if there is no immediate possibility of apprehending the perpetrator.” No wonder shops and restaurants across the country are boarded up for fear of uninvited guests.
As for ordinary Americans, they are preparing to defend themselves. The most popular search queries in Google last month were “where to buy cartridges” and “how to buy cartridges online”.
According to the FBI, sales of firearms in the United States in March increased by 33%. Americans purchased 91.1% more handguns than a year earlier, and 73.6% more guns and rifles. And the main bestseller is kat Ellis ‘book” the COVID-19 pandemic survival Guide”, a significant part of which is devoted to the story of “how to prepare for possible attacks on your home and protect your property”.
“It’s only a matter of time before a mass quarantine leads to civil unrest and violent crime,” says American journalist and author Daisy Luther. ” People who suspect you might have food will show up at your door. At first they will ask, then they will demand. And not only from you, but also from local businesses. Then there will be theft and violence, and then people will stand up with weapons to protect their homes and businesses. And in the end-civil war, martial law and totalitarianism — something that we have never seen in our country.”