Farmers in Morocco and in some parts of the United States (including Colorado and California) are affected by low rainfalls, which turned into almost a permanent drought in Colorado, that is the most affected state by climate change in the country. The wheat and barley outputs in Morocco drastically decreased from last year, meaning that the country (which already relies heavily on wheat imports to cover its consumption needs) will have to boost its grains imports: this second consecutive year of drought increased the import requirements for grains in the 2020/21 marketing year to 10.5 million tons. Meanwhile, food waste and post-harvest losses steadily increase in Kenya, according to FAO and USAID, causing around KES 72 billion in economic losses each year.
Selected daily news on food chain disruptions and countries responses to the COVID-19 impact on food chains.
FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS
The harvest of the wheat and barley crops in Morocco finished in July, but the season was characterised by high temperatures and a poor rainfall in terms of both amounts and distribution (the rains in March and April were not sufficient to favour the production), and many farmers in the drought-affected areas of the country decided to let their livestock graze the fields instead of harvesting. This resulted in a decrease in wheat and barley production by 40% year-on-year, which means that Morocco will probably have to increase its imports.
A joint report by FAO and the UN Agency for International Development (USAID) highlights that Kenya loses at least KES 72 billion annually in food waste and post-harvest losses at different stages of the food supply chain, which corresponds to around 30% of the total food produced after harvesting. The agricultural sector in the country has the potential to contribute around KES 3.24 trillion to the country’s GDP, but instead the actual contribution amounts to KES 2.48 trillion.
Large portions of land in Colorado, USA, are now in an exceptional drought (the most severe category of the US Drought Monitor), meaning that there is not enough pasture grass for livestock to graze, and therefore farmers have to purchase large amounts of hay, whose prices are increasing. This is the third year that Colorado experiences a drought during this period, which makes the state one of the places to have warmed the most in the United States with climate change.
IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES
The prices for several commodities in East Africa have recently experienced some fluctuations related to seasonal trends, rather than production issues: between June and September, maize prices have declined in Kenya (they have increased only in Nairobi, due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic), while Rwandan consumers have recently seen the prices of potatoes, rice, beans, peas and tomatoes increase due to the temporary depletion of the country’s stocks. In Vietnam, on the other hand, the heavy rains have hampered food transportation around the country and damaged the crops, resulting in a hike in leaf vegetables prices.
In Vietnam, the continuous heavy rains have recently flooded and damaged hundreds of hectares of vegetables, and made it difficult for trucks to transport the food products to wholesale markets around the country. The insufficient supply of all kinds of leaf vegetables, tubers and fruits (normally produced mainly in the Lam Dong Province and in the Central Highlands) determined an increase in prices by 40% to 50% on average (in some cases, even by 100%).
The prices of maize declined by around 15% between June and September in Kenya’s Nakuru and Eldoret markets (located in western key producing areas), because traders released stocks ahead of the upcoming harvest. On the other hand, the prices have slightly increased in Nairobi, due to the supply chain disruptions determined by the coronavirus pandemic and to the sustained demand. Finally, the prices remained stable in the country’s northern and eastern pastoral areas.
The prices of potatoes, rice, peas, beans and tomatoes have recently increased in Rwanda, due to the depletion of stocks from the previous harvest. However, according to the minister of trade and industry, farmers will begin harvesting some of those products in the coming weeks, which is probably going to stabilize the prices (for example, wholesale potato prices have already started going down, and retail prices are expected to follow suit).
Last year, Pakistan’s government initially did not accept a ban on wheat exports that was proposed by one of the ministers. Eventually, the ban was accepted in September, but the delay amplified the wheat crisis, because the country’s reserves had completely depleted in the meantime. The story was no different this year, and these delays and lack of coordination have caused cumulative price increases which are still affecting consumers in the country (but the recent measures taken by the government will hopefully stabilize them). In Libya, on the other hand, the FAO and WFP are jointly coordinating several initiatives that aim at supporting the country’s agricultural sector, while an EU-EAC jointly funded programme in Kenya is set to create opportunities for herbs and spices producers.
Pakistan is currently facing a wheat crisis again, with prices increasing by up to 45% in September, due to the central and local governments’ slowness in acting and lack of coordination, despite the prediction of the wheat shortfall by relevant bureaucrats. However, three federal ministers have recently claimed that the government has started taking effective and practical measures to bring stability to prices. One of them includes asking the provincial governments to release their wheat stocks and supply mills on a daily basis.
On World Food Day (October 16, 2020), the FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) have launched a series of initiatives to support Libya. For example, in order to examine the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on food value chains and food security in the country, the two Rome-based UN agencies have carried out a joint assessment that reached farmers, fishermen, government representatives and industries. Other initiatives include a hydroponics project and the construction of a market in Ubari.
The European Union and the East African Community have co-founded a regional development initiative that provides support to small and medium-sized enterprises in East Africa, called the Market Access Upgrade Programme. This initiative is implemented by the UN Industrial Organization (UNIDO) in Kenya, in partnership with the government and the private sector, and it is currently promoting competitiveness and market access for the producers herbs and spices (however, it also focuses on groundnuts, mangoes, chili and passion fruits).
On the occasion of the World Food Day, the World Food Programme has urged all the actors of the local food supply chain to take measures to improve food security in East Africa, which is home to 20% of all the acutely food insecure people in the world (but only to 4% of the global population). In West Africa, on the other hand, while the tree crops industry is showing encouraging signals for what concerns production and trade (especially cashew and shea nuts in countries like Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso), the cocoa industry in Ghana and Ivory Coast is expected to suffer a setback in the coming weeks, as the coronavirus restrictions in the United States will hurt Halloween sales and make chocolate makers less inclined to purchase the usual quantities of cocoa beans from the West African countries.
The African Cashew Alliance estimates that around 2.5 million Africans are directly and indirectly employed in the cashew subsector, and cashews constitute the main source of income for about 1.8 million families in West Africa. The Global Shea Alliance, on the other hand, estimates that more than 16 million rural women in Africa collect and process shea kernels. Therefore, it is becoming more and more important to make sure that the African tree crops industry has opportunities to develop.
The World Food Programme has recently called for joint efforts from all stakeholders to improve food security in East Africa, which has 20% of the total number of acutely food insecure people in the world. According to the UN agency (which has recently won the Nobel Peace Prize), the number of acutely food insecure people in the world could increase by more than 100 million this year, and without improvements in the global food supply chains, many countries are bound to become increasingly vulnerable to financial volatility and climate change.
Due to the measures taken in the United States to limit the increase in Covid-19 cases, fewer Americans will participate to the traditional activities that are organized during Halloween. This will have repercussions on the world’s largest cocoa producers in Africa: with the pandemic keeping people at home (and thus hurting Halloween sales), both Ghana and the Ivory Coast may struggle to bring chocolate makers to purchase the usual amounts of cocoa beans.