As the world was struggling to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Qu Dongyu, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Roberto Azevedo, directors general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, respectively, warned in a joint statement March 31 that uncertainty about food availability could spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market.

That led some people to worry about a possible impact on Japan, a major food importer whose food self-sufficiency rate is below 40 percent.

As the joint statement by the FAO, WHO and WTO shows, export restrictions face international criticism. Food shortages lead to a surge in prices, which makes it more difficult for people in poor countries to buy food. Export restrictions under such conditions will reduce food supply and cause prices to spike even higher.