Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    FAO Data Lab

    News digest - 03.04/07/2020

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

    Senegal farmer
    ©Benedicte Kurzen/NOOR for FAO


    Three issues related to food production in different regions of the world: the swarms of desert locusts that recently reached the northern states of India (namely, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan) through Pakistan are projected to pose a serious threat to the country’s production of wheat, rice and sugar, which mostly comes from this area of India; massive quantities of food produce gets wasted in Canada, and the coronavirus pandemic further exacerbated this situation; in Argentina, the food industry is struggling to get back on track as the authorities’ support is still lagging behind.

    An Invasion of Locusts

    Because of their speed and ability to multiply very quickly, desert locusts are one of the most destructive migratory pests. Normally, desert locusts remain confined within desertic areas in Africa and Asia; however, the unusual weather conditions during the last five years caused heavy rains and a consequent abnormal vegetation growth in the Arabian Peninsula. The locusts proliferated there, and then migrated to India through Pakistan, where they have already damaged the ready to harvest crops in the northern part of the country, which is responsible for most of the wheat, rice and sugar production in India.



    Fork in the Road: Quit cherry-picking those cherries

    About one-third of the total food produced in the world goes wasted every year, and the coronavirus pandemic only made this situation worse, with all the disruptions to the food supply chain it determined, and all its side-effects, including hoarding and over-buying (and, consequently, wasting more food). A viable solution would be strengthening the links between supermarkets and charities, so that at least the imperfect food products can reach the farmers for composting, through the mediation of the food banks.



    Opinión: La agroindustria necesita señales positivas, no incertidumbre y miedo

    In Argentina, despite all the efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic, the food producers are not facing encouraging signs yet: many farmers have expressed their concern over different cases of vandalism on silo bags that store grain and oilseeds, brush fires, machinery breakdown incidents and over a general failure in pro-activity on the part of the authorities. The food industry could be capable of helping the country lift itself from the difficulties it is facing through exports, but in order to do so, productivity must be safeguarded and stimulated.



    The meat industry in the United States has not recovered yet from the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the shutdown of many meat processing plants in the country, and consequently also shortages and prices increases; a viable solution to mitigate future difficulties would be to reorganize the whole industry by establishing smaller slaughterhouses. In the Indian subcontinent, rainfall during the monsoon season was more abundant than last year, which led to a better harvest of kharif crops (such as rice); however, flash floods in Bangladesh caused the prices of many commodities to increase, because of a general shortage in supply.   

    Meat shortages reopen a path to smaller slaughterhouses

    As previously mentioned, the US’ meat industry has been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as farmers could not sell their livestock to the meat processing plants (most of which temporarily closed) and consumers were facing shortages and price increases. Today, the greatest concern for producers is the calf market this fall, but a solution to reduce uncertainties may be represented by smaller slaughterhouses, which favour local farmers and avoid workforce overload in the plants.

    Link 1 - Link 2


    Kharif semant 88% de plus que l’an dernier

    Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the harvest of kharif crops (which are cultivated in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh during the monsoon season) such as rice, cotton, sugar cane, oilseed and pulses, was bountiful and definitely better than last year, when the monsoon rains were less abundant. By the beginning of July, rainfall was 15,8% higher than the same period, one year ago.



    Supply shortage hikes chicken, vegetable prices

    The prices of different food commodities have increased in Bangladesh. In the biggest kitchen markets of the country’s capital, Dhaka, broiler chicken prices increased by BDT 20-40 a kilogram, while the prices of locally bred hens increased by BDT 50 a kilogram. Furthermore, green chilli, aubergine, tomato, papaya, cucumber and potato prices doubled over a short period of time, while rice prices remained stable and onion prices slightly decreased. Most of the traders blame the price hike on supply shortage, caused by recent flash floods throughout the country.







    The Province of Santa Fe in Argentina was the scene of different acts of vandalism on silo bags that affected the farmers in this area of the country, as highlighted in the first section of today’s news digest. Two members of the same political coalition, Juntos por el Cambio, urged the local Chamber of Deputies to reactivate a national program that is aimed at increasing police checks. In Ireland, exporters see a ray of hope as a draft deal that protects the country’s exports was reached with the EU; the same cannot be said of Nigerian exporters, which are asking for government support in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Piden que Santa Fe vuelva al programa Cosecha Segura

    The Chamber of Deputies of Santa Fe received a request from two different members of the political coalition “Together for Change” (Juntos por el Cambio) to reactivate the “Safe Harvesting” program (Cosecha Segura), with the objective of increasing police checks against the recent brush fires and cases of vandalism on silo bags. Such national program was launched for the first time by former President of Argentina Mauricio Macri in 2019.

    Link 1 - Link 2


    Draft Deal To Allow Export Of Irish Goods Via UK Reached

    The Republic of Ireland and the European Union have recently reached a preliminary agreement that is intended to curtail the likely impact of Brexit on the export of Irish food products and livestock into the EU member states, but through the UK land bridge. Such an agreement would allow the Irish products to access “green lanes” to continental ports, thanks to which they could avoid price increases, or additional delays and paperwork.



    To grow Nigeria’s non-oil export, policy makers must walk the talk

    As Nigeria’s economy is slowly emerging from the impact of three months of total inactivity during the coronavirus pandemic, the Chairman of the Agricultural Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) urged the government to intervene promptly in order to avoid a total economic collapse. His recommendations are simple and straightforward: the issuance of all outstanding promissory notes, the provision of adequate budget, and the organization of regular meetings of the inter-ministerial committee on EEG (the Export Expansion Grant).




    The construction of a grand dam in Ethiopia was envisaged first by Emperor Haile Selassie in the 1960s. However, works started in 2011, when former prime minister Meles Zenawi asked the citizens to donate money and purchase low-denomination bonds in response to the World Bank’s and the private investors’ refusal to finance its construction. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will allow millions of people in Ethiopia to have electricity for the first time, but Egypt opposes to its inauguration before reaching a deal on how the dam should be operated and filled with Sudan and Ethiopia. This is because Egypt relies on the Nile for its water supply, most of which is used for irrigation (nonetheless, the country still imports half of its food).  

    AFRICA – The bitter dispute over Africa’s largest dam

    The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River has been under construction since 2011, and once filled it should produce around 6,000 MW of electricity (the double of Ethiopia’s current power supply). The dam constitutes a great resource for Ethiopia, but a cause of concern for Egypt, since the latter largely depends on the Nile for its water supply. Egypt is short of water, because it uses around 80% of its water for agriculture, but its irrigation canals are leaky. Despite years of talks between the two countries and Sudan, an agreement on how Ethiopia should fill and operate the dam has not been reached.


    AFRICA – Opinion: Reimaging resilient food systems for food security post-COVID and beyond

    An efficient method to enhance resilience in the rural regions of the world would encompass land rights, climate-smart agriculture and women’s empowerment at the same time, according to the Cadasta Foundation (which promotes the use of digital tools to assist vulnerable communities). In fact, despite making up over half of Africa’s farmers and producing 70% of the total food, women often do not own any land rights, and therefore they don’t have access to credit, education and protection from domestic violence.



    AMERICA – Opinión: Economía y sociedad en la nueva normalidad

    Experts in Latin America emphasize the importance of digitalising agriculture, in order to enhance productivity and accelerate the recovery of the food supply chain, which was damaged over the course of the last four months by the coronavirus pandemic. From this perspective, the biotech and logistics industries would drive and benefit from the improvements, while the tourism and hospitality industries and the retailers would be disadvantaged.