The outbreaks of African swine fever in Nigeria and the invasion of desert locusts in Kenya, between the end of last year and the beginning of 2020, still have repercussions on producers and vendors in the two African countries: the Nigerian pig farmers have incurred, so far, in NGN 20 billon worth of economic losses, while the vendors in six arid and semi-arid Kenyan counties have experienced a decreased supply of several commodities, including wheat and maize flour, beans, rice and sugar. In the United States, on the other hand, the recent increase in Covid-19 cases in the Los Angeles county has led the local authorities to force restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries to close for at least three weeks.
Selected daily news on food chain disruptions and countries responses to the COVID-19 impact on food chains.
FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS
In just three months since an outbreak of African swine fever in Nigeria, about 70,000 pigs died in the country’s largest pig farm cooperative, according to Nigeria’s Federal Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, resulting in around NGN 20 billion worth of economic losses for pig farmers. For this reason, the FAO Representative in Nigeria has urged all value chain operators to embrace good biosecurity measures.
Flour vendors in six arid and semi-arid Kenyan counties are currently reporting a decrease by 83% in the availability of maize flour, due to the recent invasion of desert locusts, which ravaged large swathes of farmland. Furthermore, according to the Kenya Cash Consortium, the supply of beans has also dropped by 80% in the market.
Starting this week, all restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars in the Los Angeles county will be closed for at least three weeks, due to the recent surge in coronavirus cases. Many businesses in the US hospitality industry, which have been losing money for months and struggling to keep their doors open, may not survive to these new restrictions.
IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES
The recent flooding that swept away around 450,000 hectares (which are equivalent to roughly 2 million tons) of rice in Nigeria have had severe repercussions on rice prices in the country, which are currently beyond the reach of the common man. Furthermore, since rice bran is used to produce poultry feed, the increase in rice prices also reflected on feed prices, thus affecting husbandry households and poultry farmers. In Pakistan, on the other hand, the recent surge in demand for poultry products and the parallel decrease in production has driven up chicken prices.
Despite being the third most consumed stapled food in Nigeria (and its demand is expected to further increase in the run up to Christmas), rice prices are currently beyond the reach of the common man is several markets throughout the country, due to a shortage in the domestic supply caused by the flooding (which has recently washed away 2 million tons of rice, out of the expected 2.5 million tons this year). Local rice brands have disappeared from the markets, so foreign brands have been the saving grace for most Nigerians (despite their high prices).
According to the International Network for Family Poultry Development, the high prices of feed in Nigeria (which have increased together with the prices of raw materials used to make feed, such as maize and rice bran) are causing financial losses to many husbandry households and farms (especially those that raise poultry), because for them feed accounts for around 87% of the total costs of production.
A recent surge in the demand for poultry products in Pakistan has led to the increase in poultry prices amid a decrease in chicken production, determined by the coronavirus lockdown. Furthermore, according to the traders in Peshawar, another reason behind the upward trend in chicken prices is that the poultry products are shipped to Afghanistan.
Canada’s Ministry of Agriculture has recently launched an ambitious initiative whose aim is financing innovation for what concerns the reduction of food losses and waste in the country, which currently amounts to more than half of all the food produced in a year (around 35.5 million tons). Singapore, on the other hand, has come up with an alternative to traditional farming (given that the total surface of farmland in the country is around 500 acres), which consists in growing agricultural products in climate-controlled grow rooms where rows of lettuce and kale are nourished via automated drips of nutrient-infused water. Finally, a programme financed by the African Development Bank in Ghana has recently proved to be very important for what concerns the coronavirus response and recovery for farmers.
In Canada, more than half of the food supply is wasted through production, processing, distribution, retail, food service and at home. For this reason, Canada’s Ministry of Agriculture has recently launched the Food Waste Reduction Challenge (as part of the country’s wider food policy), which is now open for concept applications. CAD 10.8 million will be awarded to the company that will propose innovative ways to prevent or divert food waste at any point from farm to plate.
The Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme, implemented by Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture and funded by the African Development Bank, has the overall objective of increasing the country’s food output by harnessing proven technologies to raise agricultural productivity and by promoting diversification and processing. The programme has proved to be particularly beneficial for farmers struggling amid the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Singapore’s farmland consists in about 500 acres, which is an area that corresponds roughly to the size of a single American farm. In order to reduce the dependency on food imports amid the coronavirus pandemic, the country has been trying to reinvent agriculture by converting industrial buildings into vertical farms with climate-controlled grow rooms.
Taiwan has recently been included in the United States Department of Labour’s list of countries that produce goods with force labour: more in particular, this relates to Taiwan’s seafood industry, which is worth USD 1.3 billion (the country exports seafood also to Japan and to many European countries), but employs migrant fishermen (mostly from Southeast Asia) that are frequently abused or not payed. Meanwhile, Laos (which mainly exports and imports products to and from China, Thailand and Vietnam) recorded a substantial trade deficit in October, given that its imports vastly outnumbered its exports.
Industrial development in Africa has been sluggish since the 1980s, and the hopes for an acceleration of this progress in the short term are fading as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic reveal themselves completely. However, many countries are on a good path to achieve the diversity needed to allow manufacturing to drive industrialization, especially for what concerns the industrial and agro-processing sectors (Ghana and Uganda, for example).
The US Department of Labour has recently added fish caught in Taiwanese waters in the list of goods produced with forced labour, which could lead to US import restrictions on Taiwan’s seafood (together with Thailand, which is also on the US forced labour list). In fact, the country mainly exports seafood to Europe, to Japan and to the US, but its fishing fleet has long been associated with abuse of migrant fishermen, mostly from Southeast Asia.
In October, Laos recorded a trade deficit of over USD 34 million, according to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic Trade Portal website. In fact, the country’s exports, consisting mainly in bananas and sugar shipped to China, Vietnam and Thailand, were worth USD 347 million, while the value of its imports was equal to USD 382 million.