Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    FAO Data Lab

    News digest - 02.03/08/2020

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

    Newly harvested mature cacao fruits and fresh cocoa beans
    ©FAO/K. Boldt

    FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS

    Food security levels are decreasing amidst the pandemic, especially in extremely vulnerable regions of the world, such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The lockdown measures determined widespread closures in the South African hospitality sector, forcing farmers and dairy producers to dump large quantities of food products, while in Nigeria a border closure with Benin (which became necessary one year ago to limit smuggling) is further hampering the food supply. The International Food Policy Research Institute identified lockdown measures as the main issue affecting food security, and suggested governments exempting agricultural actors.

    Border closure with Benin caused rising food inflation in Nigeria

    One year ago, Nigeria’s President ordered the closure of the country’s land border with the Republic of Benin. Despite achieving a reduction in rice and fuel smuggling to neighbouring countries, Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics’ figures show that the closure caused significant losses, mainly determined by rising food inflation and higher costs of logistics. Furthermore, Nigeria’s agricultural production is not sufficient to meet the population’s demand for food, and the prolonged border closure may also affect the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is expected to enter into effect next year.

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    IFPRI highlights effects of global pandemic on food security and gives suggestions

    According to a new article from researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the coronavirus pandemic has affected all four pillars of food security (namely, availability, access, utilisation and stability) and prompted a global economic recession (the world growth is expected to decline by 5% throughout the current year). Income declines will affect the consumption of nutrition-rich foods (fruits, vegetables and animal-source products): in countries like Ethiopia, this will cause micronutrient deficiencies to increase. IFPRI suggested exempting agricultural practices and actors from Covid-19 lockdown measures in order to ensure an adequate flow of food from farm to fork.    

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    Food loss and waste increases in South Africa due to lockdown measures

    The Covid-19 lockdown measures in South Africa are resulting in increased amounts of food lost or wasted, because farmers have been forced to dump fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products (due to the closures in the hospitality sector), while half of the country’s households report going hungry in the past three months. However, not-for-profit organizations are supporting these families by distributing food surpluses from farmers and food producers to vulnerable people and communities.

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    IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES

    Assuming a good weather for the next months, both the Australian wheat production and the Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa production for the 2020/21 marketing year are expected to disprove the initial predictions in early 2020: Australia is projected to produce 26 million tons of wheat, while Ivory Coast and Ghana are forecasted to produce respectively 2.24 million tons and 860,000 tons of cocoa. Fruit and vegetable exports from India, on the other hand, have not recovered from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus lockdown measures established in March.  

    Australian analysts forecast best wheat harvest in five years

    Grains production is a resilient industry, but the demands of global consumers and feed markets are evolving ever more rapidly; especially during this difficult year, because of the difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic. In Australia, the industry must continue to develop new innovations, but analysts believe that 2020/21 will see the best wheat crop in around five years, projected to 26 million tons (up 71% on last year’s harvest, hampered by drought). However, these forecasts remain cautious because some parts of the country saw little or no rain during the month of June.

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    Lockdown measures caused decreased fruit and vegetable exports from West Bengal

    According to the Joint Secretary of the West Bengal Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Exporters’ Welfare Association, fruit and vegetable exports from the Indian state (located in in the eastern region of the country) decreased by around 90% since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown measures in March, which caused reduced air cargo services, market closures, increased freight charges and other supply chain disruptions. On average, 3000 tons of vegetables and fruits every six months are exported from West Bengal, mostly to Dubai, Qatar, Singapore, France, Italy and other European countries.

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    Cocoa production forecasts are optimistic, while demand remains weak

    After analysts reassessed their cocoa production forecasts, currently showing an increase to 2.24 million tons in Ivory Coast and to 860,000 tons in Ghana for the 2020/21 marketing year, respondents now expect a 220,000 tons surplus in the upcoming season, against an initial 5,000 tons deficit in a late January poll. However, while supply prospects for the next season have improved, the lockdown measures are still affecting demand, which remains low (especially from hotels, restaurants and big events, such as weddings).

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    COUNTRIES' RESPONSE

    An overview of three different rural development initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and North America: in Nigeria, the Lagos state government has recently unveiled the development of three different production centres, one dedicated to fishery and the other two to agricultural production; the Powering Livelihoods project will address unemployment in the rural provinces of India by leveraging on decentralised renewable energy solutions; the HEALS Act will provide the US Department of Agriculture with an additional USD 20 billion, which will be used to extend the life of the extant initiatives implemented by the federal department.    

    Lagos state government unveils initiatives to improve its food self-sufficiency

    The Lagos state government, in Nigeria, has recently revealed an ambitious plan to increase its food self-sufficiency to 100% by the end of 2023, which involves a financing of NGN 10 billion for the establishment of the new Lagos Aquaculture Centre of Excellence. The Centre will directly produce around 2,000 tons of fish annually and stimulate the development of the aquaculture industry in the country. Furthermore, the deputy governor of the Lagos state has disclosed the establishment of two Food Production Centers that will support the expansion of the agricultural production in the state.  

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    Renewable energy solutions projected to create new jobs in India’s rural provinces

    Millions of internal migrants in India were forced to return to their native rural provinces when the coronavirus lockdown measures were established in the country. Despite a partial easing of the lockdown, most of them remain in their villages, which hold limited employment opportunities. A way to unlock new jobs in such areas would be to leverage decentralised renewable energy solutions, which consist in developing small-scale renewable energy technologies that can be implemented locally by communities and small-scale producers, contributing to the national energy supply. This is the objective of the Powering Livelihoods initiative implemented by a policy research institution and a social enterprise in India.

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    US HEALS Act will allocate additional USD 20 billion to US Department of Agriculture

    The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act is the fourth coronavirus response package in the United States. The bill includes an additional USD 20 billion to allow the US Department of Agriculture to further its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which is composed by the Farmers to Families Food Box Programs (described in an earlier issue of this daily news digest) and by an initiative that provides direct aid to farmers. The HEALS Act also allocates USD 457 million to address various issues, such as high rural rental costs for low-wage residents.  

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    REGIONAL FOCUS

    Despite Zimbabwe’s central position in Southern Africa, Mozambique still represents an unexploited export market; however, a recent market survey identifies feasible export opportunities, consisting especially in agricultural supply products (which are more expensive in South Africa, Mozambique’s largest trading partner together with Portugal), such as seeds. Furthermore, a recent resolution taken by the COMESA’s Business Council recognizes the need to strengthen the supply of certified seeds in Southern and Eastern Africa: since Zimbabwe has a robust regulatory support on issues related to counterfeit, the country should seize this opportunity.

    AFRICA – Zimbabwean companies have potential to supply agricultural products to Mozambique

    Zimbabwe’s unique position in Southern Africa offers an easy access to different markets in the region and a good opportunity to maintain strong trade relations with buyers from different Southern African countries. ZimTrade, the country’s National Trade Development and Promotion Organization, has recently conducted a market survey to identify potential buyers for agricultural inputs and implements in Mozambique, which is currently prioritizing agriculture. For the moment, Mozambique mostly imports from South Africa, but Zimbabwean companies have the potential to supply products like seeds, tractor implements, hand tools and fertilizers, which can compete with South African products especially on pricing.

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    AFRICA – COMESA Business Council agrees on facilitating seeds trade

    The Business Council of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, a free trade area comprising 21 member states, has recently discussed about facilitating the movement of seeds across borders amidst the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused several trade restrictions in Africa. The participants agreed on the need to strengthen the supply of certified seeds in the region, applying strong penalty charges in order to curb counterfeit seeds. Furthermore, the Council agreed on the need to enhance information sharing in order to sensitize farmers on quality seeds by harmonizing information and data from Ministries of Agriculture and other agencies.

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    ASIA – Palm oil plantations and solar infrastructure are substantial sources of pollution in Asia

    Since there is little to no barren land in South Asia and most of the agriculture land is used for intensive subsistence purposes, authorities have no choice but to devote forestland to solar infrastructure, which according to a renowned environmentalist requires 16 times more materials (cement, class, concrete and steel) than nuclear plants and creates 300 times more waste. Furthermore, palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia are responsible for the losses of large parts of the tropical forests, and palm oil extraction and processing procedures generate large quantities of solid waste, wastewater and air pollution.

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