Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    FAO Data Lab

    News digest - 01/07/2020

    Selected daily news on food chain disruptions and countries responses to the COVID-19 impact on food chains.

    Sweet potato Burundi
    ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano


    In Tunisia, the coronavirus pandemic hit the industrial sector hardest as a result of the lockdown imposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19; however, the agricultural sector was also affected, resulting in a decrease by around 16% in production and, more specifically, in a fall in prices for certain agricultural products (such as onions and artichokes). Some developing countries around the world managed to avoid a total food chain disruption thanks to a particular organisational structure which is based around the creation of a farming community, and that allows small-scale farmers to build resilience and food security.  

    COVID-19 and the Global Food Supply: Big Lessons from the World’s Small Farms

    The effects of the closures prompted by the spread of the coronavirus on farmers’ activities in specific developing countries (such as Timor-Leste, Nepal, India, Guatemala, Peru and Burkina Faso) were mitigated by the fact that some groups of small-scale farmers organized themselves into farming communities. For example, in Timor-Leste most of the farmers continued to have a stable supply of food, even though the government imposed the closure of all markets, thanks to such organisational structure.


    Agriculture: le Covid-19 a entraîné un ralentissement de circuits d’approvisionnement, de commercialisation et de distribution

    The coronavirus pandemic generated a downturn of the supply, commercialization and distribution of the agricultural products in Tunisia. Fruit supply recorded a decrease of about 41%, while vegetable supply dropped by 7%. Furthermore, onion and artichoke prices plummeted. In order to mitigate the strong decrease in the provision of fruits and vegetables and the price fluctuations, immediate measures were taken to deliver products to the markets.



    Beyond Meat is coming to Alibaba's grocery stores in China

    As previously mentioned, an interesting side effect of the slowdown in the meat industry determined by COVID-19 is that consumers may be more attracted to plant-based meat, which can now compete on price with traditional meat. Beyond Meat, an American producer of plant-based meat substitutes, recently revealed a new partnership with Chinese tech giant Alibaba, which will bring its products to supermarket shelves in China and strengthen its market presence.




    An overview of the status of specific commodities from today’s news coverage: restriction to movement and trade determined by the coronavirus pandemic generated a decrease in purchasing power, but maize and wheat supply and prices remained stable in Southern Africa, Central Asia and Central America; Vietnam’s rice export ban is not active anymore, and the country also started exporting large quantities of lychee to Singapore; sweet potato yield is stable, as it is a drought-resistant crop, but movement restrictions posed difficulties in the marketing of the product.

    Global Price Watch: May 2020 Prices (June 30, 2020)

    In West Africa, demand increased because of the seasonal stock depletion but remained below average nonetheless, due to trade restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and to a general decrease in purchasing power. Similarly, the movement restrictions caused by the pandemic continue to affect the East African countries’ supply, demand and price patterns, while maize supply improved in Southern Africa. Wheat and maize prices were stable in Central Asia and Central America.



    Le litchi vietnamien présent dans la chaîne de supermarchés FairPrice de Singapour

    According to the Trade Office of the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore, around 50 tons of lychee were exported to Singapore through the port of Hai Phong, in the north of the country, but they may get to 100 tons by the end of the month. The Vietnamese lychee is sold at a promotional price of SGD 5 per kilo for the first week, and SGD 6 per kilo for the following one, and it’s intended to reach Singapore’s supermarkets.



    Kenyan sweet potato farmers in trouble due to Covid-19

    In March 2018, the National Drought Management Authority (an agency of the government of Kenya that ensures droughts don’t result in emergencies) implemented a sweet potato value chain development project in Kenya’s Meru County, thanks to the European Union’s financial support, because of the drought-resistant properties of this specific crop. In the Nyambene Region, sweet potato farmers pooled their resources by creating a SACCO (credit cooperative), in order to ensure a sustainable livelihood from the project. However, the restrictions to movement determined by the coronavirus pandemic caused difficulties in the marketing of the product.




    Three interesting government policy and financial support initiatives around the world: a new bill in the US, if passed, may grant meat producers, processors and retailers in the US the possibility to face the difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic by selling their products also across states borders; many vegetable value chain-associated institutions and networks in Ghana grouped together to ask the government to issue a functional value chain policy to boost economic growth and improve livelihoods in the country; in Morocco, a regional authority launched the second phase of a programme that will support ranchers and fight drought.

    Lawmakers propose bill to allow meat sales across state lines

    2 US representatives proposed a bill that may allow state-inspected meat and poultry to be sold by producers, processors and retailers (through small producers and e-commerce) across the state lines, thus opening up new markets for their products. This draft legislation would mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on meat processing plants (most of which have been forced to close), while ensuring traceability of sales.



    Vegetable value-chain institutions to tackle Ghana’s food security

    60 vegetable value chain-associated institutions urged Ghana’s government to create a functional value chain policy in order to optimise the use of land and water resources in the country, thus facilitating the economic growth and improving livelihood and food security. Currently, more than 1.5 million people in Ghana are undernourished and 2.3 million face food insecurities.



    Dakhla: Lancement de la 2éme tranche du Programme d’urgence

    In Morocco, Dakhla-Oued Eddahab’s Regional Directorate of Agriculture (Direction régionale de l’agriculture) has recently announced the launch of the second phase of an emergency programme to support ranchers and fight the effects of the delayed onset of rains. 1500 farmers benefited from the first phase of the programme, which streamlined the supply and distribution of barley and other cattle feeds.




    The palm oil industry is recovering in Southeast Asia, also thanks to an increased demand from India and China, while businesses still struggle to get back on their feet in Central America, where a set of different socio-economic factors contributed to make the region a perfect environment for the spread of the coronavirus. European countries, on the other hand, are struggling to contain food losses and waste, despite the implementation of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, whose objective is to accelerate the European Union’s transition to a sustainable food system.

    EUROPE - EU progress on cutting food waste “too slow,” says new report

    WWF and WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme, a British charity that provides advice to businesses to help them reducing waste) issued a new report detailing the European Union’s progress in achieving SDG target 12.3 (halve per capita global food waste by 2030). Apparently, the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy is not reducing food loss and waste quickly enough for the moment.



    ASIA – Palm oil set for better fortunes after pandemic wrecked bull run

    Demand for palm oil, which is the world’s most consumed cooking oil, is going to recover in China and India during the second half of the year, after the coronavirus pandemic determined a major setback in production. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council estimates that prices will reach USD 605 per ton, if Europe’s oilseed production eases and palm oil production keeps its pace in Indonesia and Malaysia.


    AMERICA – Una Centroamérica infectada se aleja de reabrir con seguridad sus economías

    Different socio-economic factors contributed to make Central America a fertile ground for the spread of coronavirus, including government corruption, lack of investment, high poverty rates and an enormous inequality. The number of cases is still rising, some of the businesses have never closed and instructions remain unclear, which brought many people to lower their guard and specific agreements to stop the transport of agricultural products, but not the products of the large companies.