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under the COVID-19 pandemic


NEWS DIGEST 20/7/2020

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

A bush fire, which has been lit to clear new ground for planting. When this burning is repeated, year after year, it causes severe soil erosion
©FAO/Florita Botts

FOOD CHAIN DISRUPTIONS

Ensuring food security is a complex, multi-faceted target that involves the cooperation of the governments and of different actors along all stages of the food supply chain. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report for 2020, jointly elaborated by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, underlines that the coronavirus pandemic could determine an increase in the number of undernourished people in different regions of the world (including Iran and Mexico); measures that increase food prices or illegally boost food production (e.g. cattle-farming in the Amazon rainforest) should be avoided, while measures that protect the employment are welcome.

State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Number of undernourished people in Iran increases

The new State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, jointly prepared by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, highlights that, despite the prevalence of undernourishment in Iran's total population decreased from 5.2% in 2006 to 4.7% in 2019, the net number of people experiencing undernourishment actually increased from 3.6 to 3.9 million.

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El impacto economico de la pandemia en Mexico

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, less people will have access to nutritious food in Mexico, and will eventually become food insecure. The country's fiscal policy could play a fundamental role in the mitigation of the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and this is why counterproductive fiscal measures such as increasing the cost of food and beverage should be avoided, as they would affect both consumers and producers. On the other hand, measures that protect employment and actions that increase food's nutritional value should be prioritized.

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Where there's cattle ranching and soybean farming, there's fire, study finds

The real impact of the fires that burned portions of the Amazon rainforest last August only became known in January, when Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais) published the final count, amounting to 89,000 fire alerts. Intensive cattle-farming, land speculation (which involves cutting valuable trees, burning the rest and offering new pastureland to potential buyers) and pastureland expansion (landowners burning portions of forests to expand the size of their land estates) were found to be the main causes.

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IMPACT ON COMMODITIES AND FOOD PRICES

The demand for dairy products in the south-western Indian state of Karnataka is still low, as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. The milk unions are trying to balance losses and reduce the impact on dairy farmers by both decreasing procurement prices and asking the government to raise incentives. In the UK, on the contrary, the demand for fresh eggs is high, as people still tend to cook at home. After the initial restrictions to egg purchases imposed by UK supermarkets, most of them are beginning to sell mixed-weight packs, containing both big and small eggs, in order to avoid waste and meet the strong demand.

Milk unions in Karnataka again cut procurement price by ?2.5 a litre

The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted on the dairy industry in the Karnataka state (south-western India), and demand for dairy products has not increased yet. Therefore, the state's milk unions have cut procurement price for the third time, affecting dairy farmers, which now get only INR 24 a litre, instead of the INR 29 they used to earn for each litre of milk before the coronavirus lockdown. However, in order to contain the farmers' losses, the milk unions have asked the government to increase the incentive from INR 5 to INR 8 a litre.  

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Cambodia: Banana exports drop amid pandemic

During the first half of 2020, Cambodia exported 142,000 tons of bananas, compared to 155,400 tons during the first half of last year. During a recent visit to a banana farm in Phnom Penh, the Commerce Minister expressed his appreciation toward the farmers' efforts to support the demand for all agricultural products despite the coronavirus pandemic, and reminded all workers to respect the hygiene standards that are necessary to contain the spread of the virus.

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Half a million more small-sized eggs to go on sale in UK

The sales of fresh eggs vertically increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when many consumers stockpiled food, medicines and other essentials over the fear that the lockdown could leave them unable to buy necessities. Since the demand for eggs continues unabated, half a million more small-sized eggs (or "pullet eggs", which are produced by hens of about 18 weeks old) will be available for the customers in the UK supermarkets, after some of them had initially imposed restrictions on egg purchases.

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COUNTRIES' RESPONSE

Moldova's wine industry traces back to the 18th century, when the country's wines were prized internationally. However, Moldova was not an independent state, and was successively annexed by the Soviet Union. In 1992, after it became independent, the US started investing in its wine sector, and continues to do so, despite one of Moldova's largest export markets is actually China. In the UK, on the other hand, the Food and Drink Sector Council elaborated a Covid-19 Recovery Plan for the English food industry, while Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture identified the Chache Women's Group as the beneficiary of its initiative to support women's farmer-based organizations.

Democracy In A Glass: The Return of Moldovan Wine

In 1992, the United States started financing the reconstruction of Moldova's wine industry, after the Soviet Union ceased to exist and the country declared its independence: at that time, agriculture and food production employed 50% of the active labour force in Moldova. Normally, the US do not invest in alcohol programs, but the scope of the potential impact on Moldova (wine is one of the only products entirely produced in the country and exported) led to an exception. USAID continues to invest in the industry, with programs ongoing through 2029.

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Food system faces 'challenge' to recover from pandemic

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the United Kingdom's food chain exposed the fragility of the country's food system and prompted the Food and Drink Sector Council (an industry-led board in partnership with the UK government, composed of businesses from every part of the food chain) to elaborate a Covid-19 Recovery Plan for the industry. The plan includes recommendations such as enhancing the food industry employees' protection, ensuring availability of labour, accelerating food exports, and protecting the competitiveness of the UK's supply chain.

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Chache Women's Group to benefit from GHc2.5 million initiative

The initiative supporting women's farmer-based organizations involved in the post-production of agricultural products announced by Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture in late June recently concretised, as the Chache Women's Group, which is based in the Bole District of the Savannah Region and processes shea butter for the local and export markets, will be supported to purchase and install agro-processing equipment and will receive training in the operation and maintenance of the machinery.  

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REGIONAL FOCUS

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the Asia-Pacific region prompted an increased attention for smallholder farmers, who provide 80% of all the food consumed in the whole continent, and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Small farmers in the region generally have limited access to technology, but such renewed interest could boost government investment in high-quality seeds and inputs, greener technologies and low-energy or water-intensive farming methods. Thailand recently elaborate a new path to export their products to China, and more in particular to deliver its tropical fruits, such as durian, mangosteen and longan.

ASIA - From farmers to supermarket clerks, a new kind of essential worker has emerged

The coronavirus pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of the global food value chains, but also focused the world's attention on the work of the ones who ensure that food continues to reach our tables. In the Asia-Pacific region, 435 million smallholder farms produce 80% of the total food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. These farms often have limited access to new technologies, and with the region's population projected to hit 5.2 billion by 2050, it is fundamental to maximise their productivity and protecting their land.

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ASIA - Thailand forges new path for food exports to China

Traditionally, Thailand delivers its agricultural and food products to China by trucks going through either Vietnam or Laos, or by plane, but the coronavirus pandemic caused border delays and reduced the number of flights. A solution to these logistic issues was adopted by Thailand this month: it consists in trucking products to Vietnam, and then transferring them into containers on trains, which complete the deliveries to China and are cheaper and faster than trucks.

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AFRICA - World's most food-insecure region hit by lockdown price boom

Panic buying and the measures imposed by governments to contain the spread of the coronavirus determined food price increases in Sub-Saharan Africa. More in particular, land border closures in Nigeria caused a food index increase by 15.2% in June and 30% of households reported severe food insecurity, while in South Africa, where the nationwide lockdown lasted more than 100 days, food inflation doubled last month. In Ghana, the growth in food prices may be mitigated by the start of the corn and cassava harvests in August.

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