Worldwide agricultural production output overview
Nearly half of the mentions to food chain disruptions in developed and developing countries around the world during the month of November (39 mentions out of a total of 84 mentions to food chain disruptions) made reference to agricultural producers struggling to maintain average or above-average production outputs: this situation was widely observed across countries, but it especially applied to Latin America, to Europe, and to South and Southeast Asia.
More in particular, Bolivia was mainly affected by the smuggling of agricultural products, such as beef, rice, maize, chicken, pork and vegetables, and by unfavourable weather conditions (triggered by climate change), as a prolonged drought (and the fires that ravaged hectares of land throughout the country) curtailed the production of bananas by almost 50%. Brazil’s agricultural production was also affected by drought, which reflected on soybean prices and brought China to enhance its soybean imports from the United States. Farmers in Honduras, on the other hand, were mainly affected by Hurricane Eta, which caused considerable damages to agriculture and to transportation infrastructure, while Venezuela is still struggling with gasoline shortages that hamper food distribution and force farmers to turn to the black market, where prices are much higher.
In Europe, the Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian and Moldavian winemakers were equally affected by a combination of unfavourable weather conditions and by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic: drought hit wine production levels in Romania and Moldova, while many wine producers in France, Italy and Spain decided to fix vinified volumes below last year’s levels, because of the drop in demand on the global wine market, caused by the pandemic. Furthermore, sheep meat producers in France and in the United Kingdom recorded a decrease in production levels compared to the same period last year, while poultry producers in the Netherlands were affected by an outbreak of bird flu towards the end of October, which forced them to cull 35,000 broiler chickens.
Finally, the countries with the most affected agricultural producers in Asia were India and Malaysia: onion and rice production in India between the end of October and the beginning of November was affected by heavy and persistent rains, which also determined hikes in prices, while Malaysia struggled with a contraction of the global demand for palm oil and with the air travel restrictions (both caused by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic), which prevented migrant workers from working in the Malaysian plantations. In the Philippines, on the other hand, those who struggled the most were coconut farmers and pork producers.
Trade restrictions and shortages of containers affect exporters
The second most mentioned food chain disruption stage during the month was export, almost equally in relation to developed and developing countries (which respectively recorded 12 and 9 mentions in relation to exports). The most affected developed countries were Australia, the United States and Canada, while the most affected developing countries were Ecuador, Mexico and Ghana.
More in particular, the prolonged period of drought in Australia contributed to the decrease in cattle and beef export volumes, and the country has also kept struggling amid the trade tensions with China, which started limiting wine imports from Australia towards the beginning of November, causing wine exporters to keep stockpiles of wine mounting in warehouses. Both the US and the Canadian exporters, on the other hand, were affected by a shortage of containers during the month, caused by an unprecedented demand for higher-value North American consumer imports by containers from Asia. This situation especially affected US soybean exporters, and Canadian pulses shippers.
Like Australia, Ecuadorian seafood exporters were also affected by China’s import restrictions (in this case prompted by the alleged findings of coronavirus traces on imported frozen seafood), while Mexico (which became the largest strawberry exporter in the world last year) suffered from Florida’s and California’s attempts to limit strawberry imports from the country, which claimed that Mexican strawberry growers have access to government subsidies. Finally, according to a British non-profit organization, the end of the Brexit transition period between the United Kingdom and the European Union may also damage non-European countries, such as Ghana. In fact, the supply of bananas from Ghana to the UK could be interrupted, due to the fact that the Ghanaian banana exporters will face a post-Brexit import duty of GBP 95 per ton of produce, which would make shipping the fruit to the UK unprofitable.