FAO’s Big Data tool on food chains
under the COVID-19 pandemic


NEWS DIGEST 24/6/2020

Selected daily news on food chain disruptions and countries responses to the COVID-19 impact on food chains.

Deforestation

FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS

Two well-known characteristics and consequences of a globalized world: intertwined overland, maritime and air commercial routes, and climate change phenomena. Such apparently parallel lines meet in the framework of food chains: around 1.2 million seafarers around the world, who ensured a regular flow of basic food products during the most severe phase of the coronavirus pandemic, recently found themselves stranded because of border closures, while the increasing imports of soybean from Brazil are speeding up deforestation in the country.

Researchers find China and EU appetite for soy drives Brazilian Deforestation, climate change

In yesterday's news digest, we reported the European Committee of the Region's suggestion to develop a new certification scheme to protect forests. A new study published in Global Environmental Change seems to emphasize such urgency, by highlighting how the European countries' and China's massive soybean imports from Brazil have greatly driven deforestation in the Latin-American country, resulting in an increase of GHG emissions.

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Thousands of seafarers are stranded as coronavirus shuts down borders - that could hurt trade

Seafarers played a fundamental role during the most acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic, by keeping the international maritime trade running and maintaining a regular flow of vital goods, like food and medicine. However, the containment measures that were made necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including border closures, prevented most of the crew changes to be held regularly, and many of the seafarers found themselves marooned.

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IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES

The COVID-19 pandemic posed difficulties to otherwise stable trades, such as the global cheese and apple market, which are or will be facing serious price volatility. In the US, as claimed by two Democratic Senators, pork price was directly induced to rise by four of the major meat companies, that took advantage of the global crisis situation to disregard the trade rules.

U.S. meat companies warned of shortages and an executive order kept them open

Two Democratic US Senators publicly accused four of the biggest meat companies in the United States to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic in order to export major quantities of pork to China, under the cover of "feeding the American public". This allowed them to achieve specific deregulatory measures that resulted in a price increase for all consumers.

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What's gotten into the price of cheese?

The effect of a parallel increased cheese demand from consumers and a decreased offer from dairy farmers is an enhanced volatility in cheese prices, which plummeted in May and rose vertically in June. For example, earlier this month the price of block cheddar in the US got to USD 2.81 a pound.

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Global Apple Market Reached $78B, but the Pandemic Might Put a Drag on Further Growth

Generally, staple food prices are not particularly affected by economic crises. Apples fall under this category; however, they are largely consumed in the hospitality industry, which greatly suffered from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is why the global apple market may be hampered in 2020, after years of continuous growth.

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COUNTRIES' RESPONSE

The Assembly of the Gomoa Central District, in Ghana, managed to mitigate the negative impacts of a seed shortage that is affecting many African farmers, by distributing around a hundred thousand oil palm seedlings free of charge. Farmers in the United States also received a considerable financial support from the government.

Gomoa Central District Assembly To Distribute 100,000 Free Oil Palm Seedlings To Farmers

The insufficient supply of seeds to Ghana described in yesterday's news digest was recently tackled by Gomoa Central District's Assembly, located the Central Region of Akanland, which pledged to distribute 100,000 oil palm seedlings for free to the farmers, as part of the national Planting for Export and Rural Development Programme.

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Farmers Also Getting Government Help During Pandemic

In the aftermath of the global coronavirus pandemic, many American farmers received financial support from the Government under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, in order to compensate their losses due to the plummeting of crop prices. More in particular, the US Department of Agriculture earmarked funds amounting to USD 16 billion, plus an additional USD 3 billion for the purchase of fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat products.

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REGIONAL FOCUS

The disruptive effects of the coronavirus pandemic on food supply chains around the world, and more precisely in the developing regions of the world, highlight the importance of focusing international efforts on developing interventions that are specifically aimed at enhancing resilience, thus strengthening the developing countries' ability to recover from substantial economic shocks.

AFRICA - East Africa Regional Market & Trade Update (June 2020)

The containment measures determined a general slowdown in the region's staple food supply and demand, which were following the normal season trends until March. As a result of this, prices greatly increased in South Sudan and Somalia, and also recorded lower increases in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. On the other hand, livestock prices decreased in Kenya and Uganda, due to a reduced demand for meat.

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ASIA - Southeast Asian nations examine the state of food systems to ensure recovery and resilience in a post-COVID-19 era

The agri-food sector in South East Asia took the hardest blow from the coronavirus pandemic. This week, senior policy makers from ASEAN and FAO created a coalition of different stakeholders, including civil society, private sector entities and research institutions, to come up with proposals to enhance the resilience of the food systems in this region of the world.

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AMERICA - Kinks Linger in America's Food System With Pigs Still Piling Up

After the most direct effects of the global pandemic on the food supply chain have been acknowledged and analysed, some of the collateral ones are starting to emerge, including the fact that millions of pigs in the meat processing plants are likely to gain too much weight, and will eventually be euthanized by farmers.

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Contacts: FAO Datalab (ESS-datalab@fao.org)