Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    FAO Data Lab

    News digest - 24.25/07/2020

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

     Farmers gather rice seedlings in preparation for the second planting season of the year in Magalang town in Pampanga province, Philippines
    ©FAO/Veejay Villafranca


    Due to the trade restrictions and workforce challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Argentina (which is one of the world’s major agricultural producers and exporters of beef, citrus fruit, grapes, honey, maize, sorghum, wheat and soybeans) recorded a slowdown in economic activities, which has spared only fishery (the one sector that grew in the meantime). Trade restrictions are also impacting on Australian agricultural businesses, who are concerned about the effects of the rising tensions between China and Australia on their activities. The Chinese anti-dumping tariffs on Australian barley have been often interpreted as a retaliation against Australia, after its call for a Covid-19 investigation.

    Enormous amount of plastic will fill oceans, land by 2040

    More than 1.3 billion tons of plastic waste will flow into the world’s oceans and land over the next 20 years without widespread, timely intervention. The rise of single-use plastic has become more problematic during the coronavirus pandemic, because recycling operations were scaled back due to health concerns, and global waste management systems was interrupted, causing significant cuts in plastic prices. The increased quantity of plastic waste will damage marine life and enter the human food chain more and more, while burning it will significantly contribute to global warming.


    Australian farmers call for separation between foreign relations and trade ties with China

    Since trade restrictions are often used as leverages in foreign affairs, the Australian agricultural business leaders are concerned about the impact that rising tensions with China will have on their exports, and would like to see a “separation of powers” between their country’s foreign relations and trade ties with China. In fact, Agribusiness Australia (the body that represents the country’s agricultural companies, producers and exporters) has recently released a report which highlights that Australian agriculture will fall AUD 12 billion short of its 2030 target of AUD 100 billion in production value.


    La industria pesquera fue la única actividad económica que experimentó un crecimiento en mayo

    Economic activities recorded a slowdown by 20.6% in Argentina during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos). Fishery is the only sector that grew in May (by 61.5%), after fish exports (which the sector relies on, since it exports 90% of all products) decreased by 18% during the first two months of 2020.



    Rice (which is the most widely consumed staple in the world) exports were heavily hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, especially for big exporters like India and Thailand. However, such disruptions also offered market opportunities for smaller rice producers, like Guyana (which despite its small size is the 13th largest net exporter of rice) and Vietnam. In Guyana, FAO and Global Affairs Canada will implement gender sensitive climate change projects, which will give women farmers the same access to productive resources as men, and eventually help the country meet the increasing global demand for rice.

    Vietnam likely to export 6.7 million tonnes of rice this year

    During the first half of the year, rice was one of the few commodities that withstood the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, rice exports increased by 5.6% (3.5 million tons of rice). Furthermore, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has recently stated that rice firms will have an opportunity to further increase the export volume in the near future, thanks to the enforcement of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement in August.


    Cómo afecta la pandemia al precio de los alimentos

    In order to analyse the food price fluctuations during the first half of 2020, the Spain Statistical Office (Instituto Nacional de Estadística) created a basket of commodities that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Pulses and fresh vegetables recorded the highest prince increase (+10,4%), followed by fresh seafood (+3.5%) and fish (+2.7%), and potatoes (+2.6%), while sheep meat prices decreased by 2.1%. The first cause for such fluctuations is a general decrease in production and a shortage of labour.

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    Rice, Climate Change And A Post-COVID Opportunity For Women In Guyana

    During the coronavirus pandemic, three quarters of global rice exports were affected by supply chain disruptions and consequent export reductions. This resulted in economic losses for big rice exporters such as India and Thailand, but also in new market opportunities for smaller producers, like the South American country of Guyana. Guyana’s rice trade has not been heavily impacted by Covid-19, and thanks to the Global Affairs Canada’s Cooperation for Climate Change Adaptation in the Caribbean Initiative, there will be more financing for gender sensitive climate change projects in the country.



    The partnership implemented by DFCU Bank, Rabobank and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Uganda through a technical assistance program was recently extended for another three years, during which the parties intend to boost economic growth and to improve livelihoods by facilitating the access to finance and exploring digital ways to enhance the distribution of agricultural products in Uganda. In Nepal and India, on the other hand, new bills recently introduced by the respective governments aim at improving the compliance with food quality standards and at attracting new investments into the cold chain.

    Nepali government prepares new law to ensure food quality

    The Nepali government registered a new bill in Parliament that, if it becomes law, would impose penalties on food producers and sellers that do not respect the country’s food quality standards (up to 5 years of imprisonment and NPR 500,000 in fines). Food inspectors would have to share the responsibility of ensuring that food products produced and sold in markets and stores are safe for consumers, but currently the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control employs only 30 food inspectors who cover the entire country.


    Government of India wants small warehouses at farmgates after introducing 3 agri-ordinances that can revolutionise logistics

    The government of India has recently introduced three ordinances that could attract more investments into the cold chain, thus revolutionising India’s agricultural supply chain. The first ordinance aims at attracting private and foreign investments into developing temperature-controlled warehouses and transport facilities, while the second allows anybody to trade agricultural products, and not just the Agricultural Produce Market Committees, and the third one legalised contract farming for large companies.


    DFCU Bank signs with Rabobank to enhance digital inclusion in Uganda

    The Development Finance Company of Uganda Bank, Rabobank and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Uganda have recently signed a tripartite agreement to enhance financial and digital inclusion in Uganda. More specifically, this development program aims to increase agricultural productivity and access to finance in Uganda, thus reducing income inequalities and poverty while improving livelihoods and economic growth.   




    According to the projections, the demand for meat and milk in Africa will swell threefold towards 2050. While the continent should leverage on the African Continental Free Trade Area to strengthen its links with China and boost its economic growth (currently estimated to drop from +3.2% to between -2.8% and 0%), it would do well to invest into the development of critical areas within the food supply chain, such as storage, handling and sale. For example, in Uganda some private sector players have recently invested in testing systems to improve animal feed quality, and in the development of refrigeration units that are powered with biogas from manure.

    AFRICA – African nations in bid to beef up agriculture sector

    The demand for milk and meat will greatly increase towards 2050 in Africa, which therefore should improve quality across the whole value chain, especially in critical areas such as storage, handling and sale. Uganda should be taken as an example: in order to prevent milk and meat contamination, many private-sector actors have invested in testing systems that detect aflatoxin (a poisonous substance produced by specific kinds of fungi in decaying vegetation, hay, soil and grains) in animal feeds.


    AFRICA – Urgency mounts on Africa to fast-track AfCFTA to counter tough times

    According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the continent’s growth this year will drop to between -2.8% and 0% due to Covid-19. However, Africa’s recovery from the disruptions of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could be boosted by the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is projected to increase intra-African trade by 52% by 2022 and could also strengthen the links between the continent and China.



    AMERICA – El calvario de los nicaragüenses varados en el extranjero por la pandemia

    Hundreds of Nicaraguans are trying to go back to their country but are currently stuck in Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica, as they need a Covid-negative safety certification to cross the border. 400 of them recently protested by forming a human chain on the border with Nicaragua, causing trucks to form a long line along the Pan-American Highway. Most of the Nicaraguans that are now confined to different countries had left Nicaragua to find a job in Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador or Costa Rica.