Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    FAO Data Lab

    News digest - 29/07/2020

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

    Aicha Dalati works as a beekeeper with her husband in Aleppo Governorate, she wants to secure the family with income, find a proper home, and achieve food security.
    ©FAO/Jafar Almerei

    FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS

    The coronavirus determined a series of serious disruptions to the whole food supply chain in the United Kingdom, impacting both producers and consumers. The former saw the number of their buyers drastically decrease, but often managed to distribute food products that would have been lost otherwise to grocery stores and supermarkets (where consumers can now find Michelin-quality food, or imperfect vegetables), while more and more people could become food insecure due to unemployment. The new National Food Strategy tries to address this gloomy perspective by asking the government to provide more free school meals to children.

    UK supermarkets selling food products that would have been wasted otherwise

    The coronavirus lockdown was particularly disruptive for the British food and drink producers, as restaurants, pubs and office canteens closed and food exports contracted. Furthermore, in order to prevent their food products from being wasted, farmers, fishermen and processors had to find different retail opportunities to sell them: this is why in the United Kingdom it is now possible to purchase seafood that is normally sold to top restaurants (such as cockles and clams), and tons of oversized and imperfect potatoes, generally used in restaurants.

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    National Food Strategy asks UK government to provide free school meals to 1.5 million more children

    The National Food Strategy is the first review of the British food system in 75 years, and it was carried out for the government by the co-founder of a sustainable restaurant association in the UK. The document underlines that the coronavirus pandemic could increase unemployment, and therefore poverty and hunger in the country: more in particular, poor diets could contribute to one in seven deaths in the UK. In order to mitigate such risk for children, the National Food Strategy calls on the government to expand the existing free school meals scheme, covering another 1.5 million children in the country.      

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    Lack of bees in the USA could pose threat to global food supply

    A lack of bees in the United States, due to the use of pesticides and to climate change, could be the cause of a limited supply of specific food crops in the future. Since three quarters of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators (almonds, apples, blueberries and cherries, for example), and FAO also stated that the number of such crops has increased by 300% just over the last 50 years, the decline in their number could constitute a serious threat for global food security. However, staple foods such as rice, wheat and corn will not be affected, because they are pollinated via the wind.

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    IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES

    Belarus’ agricultural supply and trade are both following a positive trend, as between January and May 2020 the production of food and beverages increased by 3.3%, and the export of agricultural products and food grew by 4.4%. On the contrary, the Dominican Republic is facing commercial speculation in the poultry sector, which determined a chicken price increase, while Vietnam’s coffee and rice exports decreased respectively by 0.1% and 1.4%.

    Belarus’ dairy production and exports grew during the first half of 2020

    Belarus’ Minister of Food and Agriculture has recently stated that during 2020 the country has maintained a positive trend in agricultural production, domestic market supply and trade development. The Ministry’s figures show that, between January and May 2020, the production of food and beverages grew by 4.4% (more in particular, the production of milk increased by 6%, compared to the same period in 2019), and the export of agricultural products and food (including meat and dairy products) increased by 4.4% (around USD 2.2 billion).

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    Chicken prices increase in the Dominican Republic amid uncertain situation

    Due to commercial speculation amid the coronavirus pandemic, Santo Domingo’s consumers are currently paying almost the double for a pound of chicken (between DOP 58 and 68), compared to its cost of production (DOP 36 to 38). More in particular, speculation derives from the fact that around 8 different intermediaries participate to the production of chicken in the Dominican Republic, and some of the traders are tacking advantage of the situation of uncertainty to raise the prices.  

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    Decrease in Vietnam’s coffee and rice exports

    Despite being the world’s largest producer of the robusta coffee bean and the world’s third-largest rice exporter, according to Vietnam’s General Statistics Office, compared to this same period one year ago, both the country’s rice and coffee exports are expected to decrease by respectively 0.1% and 1.4%. The coffee export revenue is consequently expected to decrease by 0.5% to USD 1.8 billion. In the first quarter of the current year, the coronavirus pandemic had not affected Vietnam’s coffee exports significantly, but it has during the second quarter (and probably will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year).

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    COUNTRIES' RESPONSE

    Pakistan’s federal government is trying to solve a wheat and sugar shortage by importing a 1.5 million tons of wheat and 300,000 tons of sugar. Since Pakistan used to export both sugar and wheat, these supplies shortages highlight a general mismanagement of the countries’ agricultural resources by the current ruling party of the, the Pakistan Movement for Justice (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf). In Australia, an innovation hub that is funded by the government will manage a new initiative that focuses on agri-food technological development to improve the country’s food supply chain’s resilience after the disruptions caused by the drought, the bushfires and the pandemic.

    Pakistan allows import of 300,000 tons of sugar to meet likely shortage

    In addition to the wheat shortage Pakistan has been experiencing over the last weeks, the government’s Economic Coordination Committee allowed the import of around 300,000 tons of sugar in anticipation of a second shortage. The decision was taken after a review of the sugar stocks, which highlighted their depletion. The mode of procurement will be decided by a three-member committee comprising the production, commerce and finance secretary.

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    Australia invests into agri-food technological development to secure food supply chains

    Australia’s food supply chain was hampered by multiple factors over the last 12 months, including drought, bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic. The Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre, which is an agri-food innovation hub funded by the Australian government, will manage a three-year program worth AUD 10 million to secure the country’s food supply chains and build up the agri-food industry’s resilience to future shocks. More specifically, the program will bring agri-food businesses, tech companies and the whole research sector together to develop new data-driven technologies that will improve quality management and capitalise on new market opportunities.

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    REGIONAL FOCUS

    The Southern African Development Community has recently issued the 2020 Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa, which underlines that around 45 million people in urban and rural areas across 13 of the inter-governmental organization’s member states are food insecure. This includes South Africa, where the adverse economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic (including India’s restrictions to rice exports) affected income-earning activities, and therefore impacted on the country’s food security situation.  

    AFRICA – The SADC made recommendations to member states after releasing food insecurity report

    A new report by the Southern African Development Community reveals that 44.8 million people in urban and rural areas across 13 member states are food insecure, a number that has increased over a year by around 10% because of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change phenomena (such as droughts and floods). As a result, the SADC has recommended specific measures to those member states, including social protection programmes, the maintenance of domestic and international supply chains and the diversification of agricultural production.

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    ASIA – African coffee farmers suffer from explASIA – Restrictions on rice exports by Asian countries could impact on South Africa

    Different restrictions on rice exports were imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic by Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, India, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Armenia and Tajikistan. According to South Africa’s National Agricultural Marketing Council, even if South Africa imports more than 70% of its rice from Thailand and the rest from India, such restrictions could impact on the country, which therefore should ramp up on local production, in the event of a rice shortage or increase in retail prices. This is because South Africa is a water-scarce country, and therefore it cannot take risks with regard to rice, which requires ample water.

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