Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    FAO Data Lab

    News digest - 30/09/2020

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

    Ginseng production in Geumsan County, Republic of Korea.
    ©Courtesy of Geumsan County for / FAO

    FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS

    Cane molasses are used in Australia to feed livestock (by mixing it with other ingredients, since molasse is an energy-only feed) and for fuel production (although much of the capacity this year was diverted to making hand sanitizer); however, in the country and in the Asia Pacific region there is a shortage of this byproduct, possibly because La Niña conditions are far from the severe drought that drove the demand for molasses up for the last two seasons. In Canada, on the other hand, many farmers have not managed to sell most of their ginseng crops due to the coronavirus lockdown, and now around 1.8 million pounds of ginseng across Canada (20% of last year’s crop) remains unsold.

    Shortage of molasses in Australia and Thailand

    A lower sugarcane production in Australia had repercussions on the country’s supplies of molasses for livestock feeding, and this shortage of molasses has recently extended also to the Asia Pacific region: the forecast cane production for Australia this year was just under 31 million tons (down 1 million tons year-on-year), while Thailand dropped from 130 million tons to 70 million tons.

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    Canadian ginseng exports slowed down due to global pandemic

    The Canadian exports of ginseng were highly impacted by the restrictions to the movement of goods imposed after the coronavirus outbreaks around the world. Canada is the world’s second-largest ginseng exporter after China, and its main destinations for this product are Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. A ginseng crop can take up to five years to grow, but farmers in Canada still have their storages full of the last year’s crops.

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    IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES

    Two exceptions to the general contraction in trade determined by the limits posed by governments around the world to the movement of goods in order to limit the rise in COVID-19 cases: banana exports from Ecuador have grown since last year, despite a decrease in prices and in demand, thanks to a strategy that consisted in creating a banana cluster to stablish protocols and joint actions in the sector; Ugandan coffee exports similarly increased during the current year, thanks to the government’s plan to increase agricultural extension staff in the field and to ensure that farmers receive the appropriate training.  

    Ecuadorian banana exports grew despite low prices and demand

    Despite the drop in prices and the demand contraction since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Ecuadorian banana exports increased in volume during the crisis, and this fruit officially began the country’s main agricultural export product and almost the main source of foreign currency (after oil). Between January and July 2020, Ecuador exported around 208 million boxes of bananas for a total of USD 2.3 billion (which represented a growth in volume by 9.7% year-on-year).

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    Ugandan exports grew thanks to government’s replanting programme

    While the coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted many countries due to the slow movements of goods across borders, Uganda’s coffee exports hit their highest levels since 1994: this year, the country sold 5.1 million 60kg bags of coffee, against the 4.2 million bags last year. This is probably thanks to the government’s coffee replanting programme launched in 2015, whose objective is to produce and export 20 million bags per year by 2025.

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    COUNTRIES' RESPONSE

    Today’s media coverage highlights an initiative in Ghana that is meant to improve the gender relations inside rural households, in order to provide women farmers with a social and economic empowerment and, ultimately, to increase incomes at the community level. In South Africa, on the other hand, a new voluntary agreement between the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the country’s food manufacturers and retailers plans to reduce food waste in South Africa (10 million tons of local agricultural produce go to waste every year in the country). Finally, a new digitalization platform in the United States will improve compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act, which aims at preventing foodborne illness in the food value chain.

    New initiative in Ghana plans to empower women farmers

    The Centre for Child Protection and Development Africa will implement the Women’s Alternative Livelihood trough Agriculture project in Ghana, which is expected to increase women farmer’s social and economic empowerment in the country. More in particular, the project’s objective is to promote more equitable gender relations at the household level in the rural regions of the country, in order to improve the participation of the women in the agricultural value chain.

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    Food loss and waste agreement set to reduce food waste in South Africa

    The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa has recently unveiled the South African Food Loss and Waste Voluntary Agreement, whose objective is to bring food manufacturers and retailers to waste less food through international insights and expertise, collaborative dialogue and grassroots research: since retailers sell around 80% of the total food consumed in the country, they stand in a primary position to reduce food waste in South Africa.

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    Food safety in the US’ food industry improved through digitalization

    A new digitalization platform for the food industry was recently launched in the United States, in order to guarantee an ongoing compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (whose main aim is to drastically reduce foodborne disease cases in the country) throughout the supply chain. The new platform complements an already existing food safety software application that consists in two apps that manage food safety prevention controls and corrective actions.

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    REGIONAL FOCUS

    After a group of demonstrators in Argentina’s Formosa Province prevented 300 trucks coming from Paraguay to reach Chile last week, in the Province of San Luis a group of food producers has recently organized several roadblocks along 6 different national routes, in protest against the new health protocols established by the local government to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the European Union has launched the first call for proposals for its Enterprise Zambia Challenge Fund, whose aim is to provide decent employment opportunities to women and young farmers in Zambia.

    AMERICA – Food producers in Argentina protest against new health protocols

    A group of food producers have recently organized roadblocks along six different national routes in Argentina in protest against the government of the province of San Luis, which imposed new health protocols in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the province. The blocks impacted on the activities of the 800 trucks that normally travel along those routes to and from different Latin American countries (such as Chile and Brazil).

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    EUROPE – EU will create decent employment opportunities in agriculture for Zambian farmers

    The European Union’s Enterprise Zambia Challenge Fund, which was established to improve the number of opportunities in agriculture for 150,000 Zambian smallholder farmers, has recently launched its first call for proposals. The focus will be on the creation of decent employment opportunities for women and youth, and the project is closely aligned with the European Green Deal.

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