La Niña is causing prolonged droughts that are affecting farmers in Venezuela and Brazil: more in particular, they caused a hike in Brazilian soybean prices, which pushed China to strengthen its soybean imports from the United States. Meanwhile, strawberry growers in California and in Florida are starting to harvest the fruit and have protested against the lower prices of Mexican strawberries, allegedly obtained through government subsidies.
Selected daily news on food chain disruptions and countries responses to the COVID-19 impact on food chains.
FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS
A drought in Brazil is currently boosting soybean prices, which brought China to enhance its soybean imports from the United States, thus putting pressure on the American inventories: more in particular, China imported 9789 million tons of US soybeans in September, which represented a 600% increase month-on-month. This sharp increase in food imports was also due to the new coronavirus outbreaks in Europe and in the US, which led China to prepare for possible new global supply chain disruptions.
Last year, Mexico became the largest strawberry exporter in the world by surpassing Spain, mainly thanks to the low costs of production and to the United States’ imports. The prices of Mexican strawberries are so competitive that farmers in Florida and California are now trying to limit the imports from Mexico, claiming that Mexican strawberry growers have access to government subsidies.
Farmers in the northern Venezuelan state of Nueva Sparta are currently suffering from the effects of a drought. More in general, the inhabitants of some of the cities and towns in the state, such as Jorge Coll, lament the difficulties caused by recurrent water and electricity shortages, which according to the locals have been increasing in frequency over the last 10 years.
IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES
While the Chinese have not resumed their old food consumption habits (especially in southern China), maize prices have increased for a second time in October last week, due to supply issues.
Maize prices in China have increased during the month of October, due to a tight supply of the grain. Furthermore, the consumption of grains and edible oils in Guangzhou has slightly declined between January and September, and due to the needs of epidemic prevention and control, food production and processing was limited. Schools have generally postponed their reopening, and the city’s residents are relatively cautious in going out and resuming their old purchasing habits.
In the aftermath of the African swine fever outbreak that decimated China’s hog herd in recent months, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party has elaborated several policies that supported the recovery of pork production in the country. Apparently, they have brought good results, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. In Mexico, on the other hand, the governor of Chiapas has recently announced an MXN 4.7 million financing to provide support to wool, honey, fruit and coffee indigenous producers in the Altos Tsotsil Tseltal region. Finally, the FAO and Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture have partnered to sensitize media professionals on the correct use of antimicrobials in agriculture, so that they can bring a behavioural change to farmers through their activities.
Several policies promulgated by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party were implemented in different areas in China to support the recovery of pork production, such as the expansion of the capacity of farm households and the prevention and control of new African swine fever outbreaks. In fact, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, China’s pork supply will increase by 30% during the News Year’s Day and Spring Festival celebrations next year.
The governor of Chiapas (a southern Mexican state) has recently announced the investment of MXN 4.7 million into the improvement of wool, honey, fruit and coffee production in the Altos Tsotsil Tseltal region, where agricultural producers mostly belong to indigenous communities that were severely affected by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
There is a misuses of antimicrobials in Ghana’s agriculture sector: for example, 60% of poultry farmers give antibiotics to day old chicks and most Ghanaians use antibiotics when animals are not sick, due to the pressure on food supply chain (which brings farmers to produce more with limited time and space). This is why the FAO and Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture have recently organized a workshop to educate and train media practitioners to the use of antimicrobials in agriculture, in order to advocate for a behavioral change among farmers.
A large Chinese fishing fleet of roughly 300 vessels was spotted again operating in international waters off the coasts of Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. This alerted the Latin American Alliance for Sustainable Fishing and Food Security, which called on those countries’ governments to improve control and surveillance.
Latin American fishermen are currently alarmed by the fact that there are around 300 Chinese vessels at the border with Argentina’s, Ecuador’s, Peru’s and Chile’s exclusive economic zones. For this reason, the Latin American Alliance for Sustainable Fishing and Food Security solicited the governments of the mentioned countries to strengthen their regional fisheries management systems in order to improve control and surveillance on the respective exclusive economic zones.