In Syria, the economic crisis is heavily weighing down on the citizens, who are going to see less subsidized bread in the bakeries: to buy more, the only way is to turn to the black market, where prices run at SYP 500 per packet, compared with SYP 100 for the government-subsidized bread. In Nepal, on the other hand, eight people so far have been arrested because they were considered to be responsible for relabeling expired food products and selling them to the customers by offering schemes such as “buy one, get one free”. Finally, the weather phenomenon that is known as La Niña is likely to impact on maize production in Paraguay, which will be curtailed by a drought if crops do not get enough rains in October.
Selected daily news on food chain disruptions and countries responses to the COVID-19 impact on food chains.
FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS
The government of Syria has recently introduced new rules that limit the amounts of subsidised bread available at the bakeries for each person, further increasing food insecurity for many households throughout the country. Under the new regulation, a family consisting of two people is entitled to one packet of bread a day, while two packets go to families of four, three packets to families of six, and four packets to families of seven or more people.
Tons of expired food were relabelled with new dates and sold in supermarkets and grocery stores in Kathmandu, Nepal. Such items are normally offered with schemes that are along the lines of “buy one, get one free”, in order to clear the stock of goods. Some of the expired foods had developed fungus on them, which may not be evident while consuming, but can be particularly dangerous for human health.
La Niña is going to bring about a drought in Latin America that may affect Paraguay’s production of maize, in case the crops don’t get enough rain during the first half of October. This weather phenomenon has already affected the sowing process during the summer, which was delayed. The country’s government should provide financial support to maize farmers, which have been already affected by the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES
While rice prices have surprisingly remained high in Bangladesh this week, despite the government’s first attempt to fix them for the millers, banana prices in China have started to increase on Monday, as many people are stocking up their supplies in view of the country’s National Day and the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival holidays. Despite the hailstorms that hit parts of northern China, the production of apples and pears will be abundant in the autumn, thus stabilizing the prices for these products. The country, however, had to make up for the huge gap in maize production caused by the recent typhoons, by increasing imports from the United Kingdom, which has seen its maize prices rise recently.
Despite the move of Bangladesh’s government to fix the prices of rice for the millers for the first time ever, in an attempt to keep the market for this commodity stable, rice prices have increased unexpectedly in a week, together with other food products, such as green chilli, ginger and garlic. Onion prices (which rose in mid-September, after India’s export ban), on the other hand, have slightly decreased, thanks to several initiatives implemented by the government.
Chinese banana prices began to rise on Monday, mainly because of the unfavourable weather conditions in the production areas of Guangxi, and due to people stocking up with supplies ahead of China’s National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival holidays. On the other hand, the holidays will have a limited effect on driving up fruit prices in the country, since in autumn fruits like apples and pears will flood onto the market (after volumes were slightly lower in September).
A weaker sterling, a strong Chinese demand and the fact that fund buyers are active in the market have all contributed to push up prices of all feed materials and grains in the United Kingdom, including maize, which has gained GBP 15 to GBP 20 per tonne in a month as China had to make up for its own production losses, caused by the recent typhoons. Furthermore, feed prices may further increase in the future in case a trade deal between the UK and the European Union is not reached.
Thanks to the combined efforts of several actors that participate to the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, livestock productivity in Ethiopia (which employs large portions of the country’s rural community) has increased by relying on fodder crops grown by women farmers. The United States and Singapore, on the other hand, are working to reduce food losses and waste within their territories: the former by improving its anaerobic digestion capacity thanks to the funding provided by the Environmental Protection Agency; the latter by setting up a multi-agency workgroup that coordinates several initiatives.
The shortage of good quality feed for livestock has remained a major challenge for Ethiopia’s livestock sub-sector (which employs around 70% of all rural dwellers) for years. However, thanks to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Small Scale Irrigation, women farmers in the northern and southern regions of Ethiopia are growing irrigated fodder crops to expand their opportunities in the dairy value chain, thus improving their incomes, nutrition and livelihoods, and contributing to the enhancement of livestock productivity at the same time.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has allocated around USD 3 million to 12 selected organizations that will use this funding to reduce food loss and waste by expanding the anaerobic digestion capacity in the country, which is the process whereby organic waste is managed in a way that it does not flow into the sea or get dumped into landfills and incinerators. More in particular, the funding will finance projects that include feasibility studies, technical assistance and training.
The amounts of food waste generated in Singapore have increased by around 20% in the last 10 years, and last year only 18% of the 744,000 tons of food waste was recycled. In order to tackle both food waste and food insecurity, the country’s government set up a multi-agency workgroup involving representatives from several food groups ad officials of government agencies, such as the National Environment Agency, which has recently announced a USD 1.76 million Food Waste Fund to implement food waste treatment solutions.
In Central America and the Caribbean, the coronavirus pandemic has determined a deterioration of Honduras’ economic situation, and a resulting growth in unemployment rates, which swelled the ranks of the thousands of migrants that are trying to reach the United States passing through Guatemala and Mexico. Similar issues are affecting the Caribbean countries, which are seeking to improve the production and trade of cassava products to increase their food self-reliance. In South and Southeast Asia, on the other hand, the deteriorating trade relationship between China, Australia and the US may grant Pakistan the opportunity to increase its barley production and exports.
The coronavirus pandemic has decimated the Honduran economy, which saw its gross domestic product fall by 12%, while around 120,000 people found themselves unemployed and food insecure in recent months. This gave a renewed boost to migration: last week, between 3000 and 4000 Honduran migrants entered Guatemala, but only a few of them managed to provide the required evidence of a negative coronavirus test result, while smaller groups of migrants are trying to cross the border with Mexico.
The Caribbean countries’ accessibility to food and incomes has been largely hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced the formal and informal employment opportunities in the region, brought exporting countries to temporarily suspend their food exports and limited the planting, harvesting and distribution processes due to social distancing. This is why the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is rethinking supply chains in order to increase its degree of food self-reliance through an improved cassava production and interregional trade.
The ongoing trade war between the United States, Australia and China may represent an occasion for Asian countries such as Pakistan, Vietnam and Malaysia to fill any potential supply gap in China. For example, since China banned the Australian barley exports, the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) may be steered toward the introduction of technology in Pakistan’s agriculture sector, capable of improving the country’s barley production and exports.