People in nine different cities in Uganda have been suffering from acute food insecurity between June and August, as a result of the effects of the coronavirus lockdown measures, and this situation is likely to remain serious in two of them throughout the rest of the year. In Western Australia, on the other hand, a shortage of agricultural workers is expected to affect farmers, who need around 7000 people in total for harvesting, packing and processing horticultural products in this period. Finally, after the announcement of the new coronavirus lockdown measures in Ireland (described in yesterday’s issue of this daily news digest), Scotland’s prime minister has recently stated that pubs and restaurants in the central part of the country will remain closed until 25 October.
Selected daily news on food chain disruptions and countries responses to the COVID-19 impact on food chains.
FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS
The most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis in Uganda has found that Ugandans in nine urban areas of the country were at Crisis level of food insecurity during the months leading to August, because of the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and two of them (Gulu and Kasese, respectively in northern and western Uganda) are likely to remain at this level of food insecurity for the rest of the year, even after their markets will be supplied with harvests.
A new report released by Ernst & Young underlines that the horticulture sector in Western Australia will face a labour shortage of up to 26,000 workers by March 2021, which corresponds to a 36% to 59% labour supply shortage between November 2020 and June 2021. Since normally about 7000 jobs are needed for harvesting, packing and processing in this period in Western Australia, because of the shortage the state’s farmers will be heavily affected, especially during the spring and summer picking season.
Restaurants, pubs and bars in central Scotland will remain closed under the new coronavirus lockdown measures, due to the surge in Covid-19 cases, while in other parts of Scotland they will have to serve food and beverages outdoors. According to the Scottish Hospitality Group, a two-week lockdown will cost hospitality businesses more than GBP 10 million.
IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES
Pakistan and Nepal have recently been experiencing price hikes respectively for poultry and vegetables: this situation is due, in the former country, to a sudden increase in demand (due to the lifting of the coronavirus lockdown measures in September) and to the high feed prices, while in Nepal it is the result of a low production and of the high vegetable prices in India (which exports these food products to Nepal). In the Philippines, on the other hand, the current rice tariffication law is allegedly causing a drop in rice prices, which could make farmers turn away from the production of this commodity.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has highlighted a rise in prices of broiler chicken and tomatoes in September, which has contributed to a higher month-on-month inflation increase. This may be due to a sudden hike in demand that coincided with the lifting of the coronavirus lockdown and restriction measures on social gatherings (in the run-up to the winter wedding season in the country).
The president pro tempore of the Philippine Senate has recently called on the country’s Department of Agriculture to investigate on the sudden drop in the local rice prices (a kg of rice is currently sold on average at PHP 12), which according to him is an effect of the current tariffication law. If the situation remains unchanged, farmers may choose to reduce the rice acreage as rice production would not be cost-effective anymore, with substantial impacts on food production.
Vegetable prices have skyrocketed by as much as 300% in a month in Kathmandu due to a decreasing production in the country: according to the president of Nepal’s Federation of Fruits and Vegetable Entrepreneurs, Kathmandu currently receives only 500 tons of vegetable a day, while it used to be supplied with 800 tons daily. Furthermore, most vegetable are imported from India, which has been experiencing price hikes, too.
Given the increase in Cyclospora outbreaks (which is a parasite that contaminates food and water and causes an intestinal illness) in the United States, and the other issues related to foodborne diseases affecting the country’s fresh produce industry, the Centre for Produce Safety has funded 14 new research projects, valued at just over USD 3.3 million. Japan, on the other hand, has partnered with Rwanda’s government to provide high quality vegetable seeds worth almost USD 1 million to farmers through its International Cooperation Agency, in order to boost Rwanda’s economic recovery from the disruptive effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centre for Produce Safety (or CPS, an American charitable organization that focuses on conducting research on food safety) has recently funded 14 new research projects to evaluate the role of dust on food in transferring foodborne pathogens and to study the survival of infectious viruses in surface water and the inactivation of the Cyclospora parasite. The projects will all begin in January 2021, and the results of the research will be disseminated to the industry during the CPS’ annual research symposium.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal resources signed an agreement that is aimed at providing quality vegetable seeds worth USD 950,000 to vegetable farmers in the country, which have been struggling to get quality seeds during the coronavirus pandemic. This aid will provide additional impetus to Rwanda’s economic recovery from the health crisis, while the main seedling varieties that will be distributed are French beans, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, green peppers, eggplants and amaranths.
While the United States and Europe remain the largest consumers of bananas (mainly coming from Latin American countries, such as Ecuador), the Philippines remains one of the largest exporters of this fruit, despite recording lower exports to China due to the emerging Asian competitors on the market, such as Cambodia (which exports bananas with similar qualities but lower prices). India, on the other hand, remains one of the largest rice exporters in the world, and its exports may further increase in 2020, due to the difficulties faced by other rice-exporting countries, such as China, Thailand and Vietnam (where rice production was curtailed by the unfavourable weather conditions).
According to the Global Head of Bananas and Pineapples at Maersk (a Danish logistics company), Philippines remains one of the two main producers for exported bananas in the world, and its primary destinations are the Asian and Middle Eastern markets. More in particular, China and Japan are particularly important for the Filipino banana exports, even though the Chinese demand has recently decreased due to the new trading lanes with Cambodia (which exported around 121,000 tons of bananas to China during the first half of 2020).
India’s rice exports may increase by nearly 42% year-on-year to 14 million tons in 2020, thanks to a depreciating rupee (which has declined 3% against the US dollar) and to a lower competition from other rice-exporting countries. In fact, Thai rice exports are decreasing due to the drought that affected the country’s rice production early this year, Vietnam is recording reduced rice yields due to the lower water levels in the Mekong River Delta, and China is exporting lower rice volumes to Africa after the floods hit its local crops.