Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    FAO Data Lab

    News digest - 23/06/2020

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

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    FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS

    The containment measures triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic in different countries around the world brought forth various consequences, including changes in consumer preferences and food chain interruptions. Such a shift in purchase orientations caused national producers to thrive, while food imports are shrinking. Furthermore, it induced the African Development Bank to propose a broad initiative that is aimed at digitalising the agriculture value chains in order to reinforce the ties between the value chain actors.

    Some shoppers are shunning foreign goods due to virus risk, research claims

    Many countries are easing the containment measures that were made necessary by the coronavirus outbreak. However, uncertainty remains in the minds of most consumers, who are more inclined to purchase nationally produced food products. Such a behaviour is common in times of crisis, according to Michael Gasiorek, a professor of economics at Sussex University in England.

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    Agriculture value chains must be digitalised – AfDB

    The interruption of different food chains in Africa and the changes in consumer preferences determined by the COVID-19 pandemic caused great agricultural labour shortages in the continent. The AfDB proposed to take advantage of this shift in consumers’ interests to digitalise agriculture value chains and strengthen the links between all value chain actors.

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    IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES

    As evidence of the heterogeneous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, also within different production sectors of the same country, India is currently facing opposed issues related to imports: on the one hand, it authorised the acquisition of around 500,000 tons of corn, 10,000 tons of milk and cream powder and 150,000 tons of rapeseed and sunflower oil to meet an increased demand from local manufacturers and producers; on the other hand, it received pressures to ban refined palm oil imports, in order to support the national production.

    India clears 500,000 tons of corn imports at much-reduced duty in boost for poultry sector

    Despite the general tendency to reduce imports in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, India recently authorised imports of 500,000 tons of corn at a concessional import tax, with the objective of meeting the increased demand of corn starch manufacturers and domestic poultry producers.

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    Edible oil in India: Industry calls for import ban and local production boom post-COVID-19

    Because of the many logistical challenges posed by the containment measures, edible oil imports in India dropped by 34% in April 2020. The Solvent Extractor’s Association of India is now asking to stop all refined palm oil imports and increase crude oil’s, in order to boost the local refining capacity and create jobs.

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    No food shortage despite COVID-19, says agriculture ministry

    Jamaica’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries claims that the country is not facing a reduced supply of basic food items (including sugar, flour and rice), despite the global economic slowdown. However, the price of sugar increased, as a result of its rising production costs.

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    COUNTRIES' RESPONSE

    Today’s news coverage highlights three initiatives in different countries and continents of the world, characterised by a specific approach that is tailored to their peculiar features. The United Kingdom focuses on enhancing the links between its SMEs and the foreign commercial partners under new post-Brexit trade agreements; Zimbabwe will enhance its mechanisation programme; the Government of Argentina is liaising with many agri-food entities in order to increase their exports.  

    UK announces “bounce back” plan to boost agriculture, food and drink industry

    The British government will support producers and manufacturers across the food supply chain, through a specific plan containing a set of initiatives. Such measures include physical and virtual events and an enhancement of the small and medium enterprises’ international e-commerce backing, hopefully resulting in an increased trade with foreign commercial partners.

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    President to launch tractor facility

    Zimbabwe’s President will launch a new supply facility that will be part of the Government’s mechanisation development programme, with the aim of boosting the agriculture sector through the production of harvesters, planters and tractors. Furthermore, a specific agreement with Belarus will provide the country with new farming implements and buses, while the agricultural recovery plan resulted in the training of more than two thousand farmers.

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    El plan de la cadena agroindustrial con Massa para exportar por US$100.000 millones

    Argentina’s Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and Minister of Agriculture are working with more than 40 agribusiness entities in order to develop a new draft legislation that will be supposed to foster financing and agri-food exports, with the objective of creating around 700,000 jobs and reaching USD 100,000 million worth of exports in this sector by 2030.

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    REGIONAL FOCUS

    The European Committee of the Regions, one of the advisory bodies of the European Union, warns about the danger of intensive meat, coffee, cocoa and palm oil productions, as they are considered to be among the first causes of deforestation in Latin American and Africa, which is currently facing the planting season under serious constrains posed by the consequences of the global pandemic.

    AFRICA - COVID-19 disrupts Africa’s seed supply, threatening food security

    As a consequence of the labour shortage and border closures determined by the global pandemic, many African seed companies struggle to produce or import sufficient quantities of seeds, which are fundamental for productivity during the current planting season. For example, Ghana imports most of its seeds from Europe, Asia and America; right now, most companies are not able to bear the doubled import costs.

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    EUROPE - Reconciling forestry and agriculture: we need a new certification scheme to protect forests

    Meat, coffee, cocoa and palm oil productions are currently among the first causes of deforestation around the world, but most of the European food consumers are not aware of this. Therefore, it is paramount to work on reinforcing educational actions to raise awareness, and to act toward a European commitment to create a specific certification scheme that prioritizes deforestation-free products.

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