Implications of Covid-19 Pandemic on Household Food Security: Experience from Sarawak, Malaysia

  • Regina Garai Abdullah Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
  • Neilson Ilan Mersat Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
  • Swee-Kiong Wong Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
Keywords: Covid-19 Pandemic, Food Security, Food Accessibility, Food Availability, Sarawak


This paper discusses how household food security is affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, using examples from Sarawak, Malaysia. Food security in Sarawak was affected by the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) that was introduced to curb the spread of the Covid-19 disease. The MCO, and the subsequent phases that followed, imposed a varying degree of restrictions on movements in the country. This measure had serious repercussions on food security as it affects the distribution of food as well as how people access food. This raises questions of how secure households are in terms of food security, how do they ensure food security for their households and what are their greatest challenge in ensuring food security. This paper seeks to address those questions by examining the experiences and perceptions on food security during the pandemic based on the responses of 235 respondents. Findings indicated that most households are food secure i.e. having similar access to food as prior to MCO and have not skipped any meals. In order to achieve this, households had to resort to various measures including switching their food sources, shopping online, and going without their preferred food. Significantly, the finding shows that food security means more than just having enough food but should also incorporate elements of variety, types and quantity of food. It also shows that the greatest challenge in achieving and maintaining household food security lies in the way household cope with the changes brought, both directly and indirectly, by the pandemic.


Ansah, I. G. K., Gardebroek, C., & Ihle, R. (2019). Resilience and household food security: A review of concepts, methodological approaches and empirical evidence. Food Security, 11, 1187-1203.

Bennett, E. L. (2002). Is there a link between wild meat and food security? Conservation Biology, 16(3), 590-592.

Bhavani, R. V., & Gopinath, R. (2020). The COVID19 pandemic crisis and the relevance of a farm-system-for-nutrition approach. Food Security, 12, 814-884. doi: 10.1007/s12571-020-01071-6

Bublitz, M. G., Czarkowski, N., Hansen, J., Peracchio, L. A., & Tussler, S. (2020). Pandemic Reveals Vulnerabilities in Food Access: Confronting Hunger Amidst a Crisis. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 1-3. doi: 10.1177/0743915620929998

Capone, R., Bilali, H. E., Debs, P., Cardone, G., & Driouech, N. (2014). Food system sustainability and food security: connecting the dots. Journal of Food Security, 2(1), 13-22.

Cooper, E. E. (2013). Evaluating household food insecurity: applications and insights from rural Malaysia. Ecology of food and nutrition, 52(4), 294-316.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (1983). Committee on World food security (CFS 83/4): Director Generals Report on Food Security: A reappraisal of the concepts and approaches. Rome. Retrieved from do?recordID=XF8333115

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (1996). Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action: World Food Summit 13-17 November 1996, Rome, Italy. Retrieved from

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (2006). Food security. Policy Brief, 2, 1-4. Retrieved from Security_Cocept_Note.pdf

Food and Agriculture Organisation (2020). Impacts of coronavirus on food security and nutrition in Asia and the Pacific: Building more resilient food systems. Retrieved from

Galanakis, C. M. (2020). The Food Systems in the Era of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Crisis. Foods, 9(4), 523.

Hashim, M. S., Isa, A. M., Menon, A. S., & Nazari, N. M. (2019). The Effect of Tourism Towards the Food Security Issues to the Urban Poor in Sarawak, Malaysia: A Conceptual Approach. International Journal of Financial Research, 10(5), 241-249.

Hobbs, J. E. (2020). Food supply chains during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2020(S), 1-6. doi:

Kim, K., Kim, S., & Park, C. Y. (2020). Food Security in Asia and the Pacific amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. ADB Brief No. 139. Manila, Philippines: Asian Development Bank. Retrieved from

Langgat, J., Zahari, M. S. M., Yasin, M. S., & Mansur, N. A. (2011, March 14-16). The alteration of Sarawak ethnic natives' food: it's impact to Sarawak state tourism. In 2nd International Conference on Business and Economic Research Proceeding, 684-698. Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia.

Loopstra, R. (2020). Vulnerability to food insecurity since the COVID-19 lockdown. The Food Foundation. Retrieved from

Mat Akhir, A., Omar, R., & Abd Hamid, H. (2009, November 11-13). Food security–A national responsibility of regional concern: Malaysia’s case. Paper presented at the Conference on Food Security and Sustainable Development (pp. 11-13), Rome. Retrieved from

Maxwell, D. G. (1996). Measuring food insecurity: the frequency and severity of “coping strategies”. Food Policy, 21(3), 291–303. doi:10.1016/0306-9192(96)00005-x

Maxwell, D., Caldwell, R., & Langworthy, M. (2008). Measuring food security: Can an indicator based on localized coping behaviours be used to compare across contexts? Food Policy, 33, 533-540.

Maxwell, S., & Smith, M. (1992). Household food security: a conceptual review. Household food security: Concepts, indicators, measurements. New York: UNICEF Programme Publications.

Mutiah, S., & Istiqomah, I. (2017). Determinants of Household Food Security in Urban Areas. JEJAK: Jurnal Ekonomi Dan Kebijakan, 10(1), 103-120. doi: 10.15294/jejak.v10i1.9130

Onn, L. P. (2018). Property rights, food security, and gender: The impact of the expansion of palm oil plantations on native communities in Sarawak, Malaysia. In Devasahayam, T. W (Eds.), Ensuring a square meal: Women and food security in Southeast Asia, (pp. 147-169).

Rahman, M. M., Arif, M. T., Bakar, K., & Talib, Z. (2012). Food safety knowledge, attitude and hygiene practices among the street food vendors in Northern Kuching City, Sarawak. Borneo Science, 31, 107-116.

Rosegrant, M. W., & Cline, S. A. (2003). Global food security: challenges and policies. Science, 302(5652), 1917-1919.

Sharif, Z. M., & Ang, M. (2001). Assessment of food insecurity among low income households in Kuala Lumpur using the Radimer/Cornell food insecurity instrument–a validation study. Malaysian Journal of Nutrition, 7(1), 15-32.

World Health Organisation (WHO) (2020). Director-General’s Opening Remarks at the Media Briefing on COVID-19—11 March 2020. Retrieved from

How to Cite
Regina Garai Abdullah, Neilson Ilan Mersat, & Swee-Kiong Wong. (2021). Implications of Covid-19 Pandemic on Household Food Security: Experience from Sarawak, Malaysia . International Journal of Business and Society, 22(1), 1-13.