In 2019, the government of the Philippines issued a Rice Tariffication Law to reduce tariffs on rice imports and put an end to the shortage that was afflicting the country. The law achieved its objective, but exponentially increased cheap rice imports, thus severely affecting the local rice growers, who found themselves forced to sell or convert their lands. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, the situation of uncertainty surrounding the trade talks with the European Union and the shutdowns caused by Covid-19 in the hospitality industry had negative repercussions on the country’s spirits exports, while the wheat crisis in Pakistan is exasperating the residents of different cities, such as Sadiqabad.
Selected daily news on food chain disruptions and countries responses to the COVID-19 impact on food chains.
FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS
The Rice Tariffication Law was signed last year to tackle the shortage of local rice in the Philippines; however, it allowed cheaper rice imports to flood into the country, thus hitting the selling price of local rice farmers. Traders still prefer importing rice rather than purchasing local supplies, forcing Filipino farmers to sell their land in order to repay their debts, or to convert their lands into plantations.
During the first 7 months of 2020, the United Kingdom’s spirits exports have totalled GBP 2.3 billion, which represents a 28% decrease year-on-year. Exports started dropping when the first coronavirus lockdown measures were imposed by governments around the world in March, but there are other factors behind the decrease, such as the re-emerging of tariffs, the imminent end of the Brexit transition period, and the shutdowns in the hospitality industry.
Many residents of Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal district have recently protested against the unavailability of subsidised flour by blocking the Khar-Peshawar Highway for hours. In fact, after the wheat crisis emerged in the country, the district administration allocated about 300 bags of subsidised flour a day, but during the last few days the supply of these bags was suspended.
IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES
While global orange prices have been steadily increasing ever since the year 2000 (and they have recently hit their highest rate, driven by Chile’s orange exports), the Uganda Coffee Development Authority estimates that global coffee prices will soon rise due to the disruptive effects of the weather phenomenon known as La Niña on Brazil’s coffee crops, which are threatened by the future scorching temperatures.
Over the last 20 years, average orange prices have progressively increased, and they have recently reached their highest point since 2000. More in particular, the market has seen a steady increase since April, with Chile taking the lead in the last couple of weeks (selling oranges at USD 1.86 per kilo). The factors contributing to such increase in prices could be various, but the laws of supply and demand may have had the biggest influence.
According to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, global coffee prices may increase soon due to La Niña’s effects on Brazil’s next crop. Uganda is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of coffee, and it could take advantage of the future unfavourable weather conditions in Brazil, thanks to the implementation of its coffee roadmap, which aims at increasing coffee exports to 20 million 60 kg bags in 2025 by enhancing the supply of seedlings to farmers.
The island of Réunion has recently started raising funds through a local daily newspaper and a television channel to finance the distribution of food and the supply of water in southern Madagascar, which is currently facing a severe food crisis (especially the Androy Region, where people will be suffering from very critical malnutrition at least until December 2020, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification). Meanwhile, a project that is co-funded by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the European Union (with the participation of UNCTAD and CITES) will provide support to shellfish growers in three eastern Caribbean states, while Ghana has recently commissioned the construction of a 1000 tons warehouse in the Ashanti Region.
The risk of famine is great for hundreds of thousands of people in southern Madagascar. That’s why the Kéré Foundation has recently announced the implementation of a project that will draw funds from a local television channel and a daily newspaper from Réunion (the overseas region of France located east of Madagascar). The initiative aims at using the funds to donate flour, grains and legumes, and to rehabilitate and supply with water the cisterns that were built by the same foundation in 2007.
Despite the growth of the global market for queen conch (a shellfish exported by the Caribbean countries), the small-scale coastal producers in the eastern Caribbean are not fully benefitting from the new range of opportunities that this growth entails. This is why UNCTAD, the OECS and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have launched the Blue BioTrade project, which plans to enhance the sustainable production of queen conch in Grenada, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Ghana’s government has recently commissioned a 1000 tons warehouse in the Ashanti Region, which will be one of the 80 warehouses that are being built across the country under the One District One Warehouse program. The warehouses are designed to support the local agro-processing factories by storing the food they produce and reduce post-harvest losses.
A new policy report issued by APEC underlines the challenges that the Asia-Pacific countries are facing for what concerns maintaining stable levels of food security (mainly due to the food chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic), and therefore invites all the member countries to keep the food trade open. Liberia faces similar concerns, but the production of cocoa could represent a valuable opportunity to enhance incomes and food security rates; however, unlike its neighbouring countries in West Africa, Liberia lacks production skills and a reliable market access for cocoa, which limit the possibility for this sector to thrive.
According to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Policy Support Unit’s new policy report, the member states’ economies are already facing challenges related to the achievement of food security, due to the shifts in consumer demand and to the growing population; on top of this, the coronavirus pandemic is adding pressure to food security in the region. Therefore, the report encourages the member countries to keep the food trade open and streamline the customs clearance of food products.
Unlike many other West African countries, Liberia is not known as a traditional producer of cocoa beans. However, up to 40,000 smallholder farmers in the country produce cocoa and rely on this crop for income and food security. A lack of a proper market access and a gap in production skills hampers the quality of the cocoa beans produced in the country, which are heavily discounted on the world market, thus limiting the possibilities for the sector to further develop in Liberia.