December 13, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Brazilian Soy | Chicken Shortage | Breadbaskets at Risk

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Extreme Weather Increasing Risk of Food Crises

Two new studies have found increased risk of harvest failures in global breadbasket regions, increasing the chances of civil unrest and conflict. One study examined how particular jet stream wave patterns increased the risk of simultaneous heat extremes and disruption in food supply in multiple key regions.

The second study found an increase in the likelihood of multiple breadbasket failures for wheat, maize, and soybean. If multiple food producing regions experience crop failure, food prices would rise—as would the possibility of social unrest. OF THE WEEK

Our food system is changing - can we change with it? Connect with thinkers and implementors to create solutions for a sustainable future at the Global Food Security Symposium ACTORS 

Land Titles in Brazil: President Bolsonaro issued a decree that will make it easier for small farmers to gain the title to the land they work. It simplifies paperwork that had been a previous barrier for farmers. Gaining title will allow an estimated one million small farm owners to gain access to credit previously inaccessible.  

Game of Chicken: Restaurants are closing and chickens now cost the same as rams in Nigeria, due to a presidential policy that closed the nation’s land borders to all goods. Previously, the majority of chicken and rice in Nigeria entered via smuggling from Benin. Domestic production of poultry can meet less than one third of Nigerian demand, causing price hikes that are leading consumers to opt for other meat. 


Register for the Global Food Security Symposium!

How is innovation changing the way consumers, in the United States and abroad, think about the food system? Hear from leaders, innovators, and stakeholders at the Global Food Security Symposium on March 26, 2020 in Washington, DC to learn how new breakthroughs can support a secure, healthy, and prosperous planet. Early bird registration is now open!


New Urban Rooftop Farm: Thammasat University in Bangkok has opened Asia’s largest rooftop farm. At 75,000 square feet, the farm will be open to anyone who wishes to grow food. The farm’s design mimics rice terraces which is hoped to mitigate flooding in the city.

Troubled Futures for Kenyan Coffee: Low prices and high temperatures are driving Kenyan farmers to b. Erratic and intense rains harm plants already made vulnerable to disease by heat. The nation’s coffee production is predicted to fall to a 57-year low this season which could disrupt the global high-quality coffee market.

Trends in Global Food Security: The Economist Intelligence Unit has released the 2019 Global Food Security Index. Rising global food prices and stagnant public spending on agriculture are two of the areas identified that need improvement. Farmers’ access to financing correlated closely with overall food security, and a need for increased irrigation infrastructure is needed globally. DIVE

Coffee Production in Kenya: Over half of the coffee growers in Kenya are smallholders, working 15 hectares or less. The sector has a cooperative production and processing system. Acidic arabica beans are the predominant variety grown, and Kenyan arabica is known for its high quality and distinctive flavor.  The nation’s arabica thrives in volcanic soils in highlands between 1400-2000 meters above sea level. CRUNCH

Mapping Food System Sustainability: Researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture have created a scale to rank and compare nations’ food system sustainability. Twenty indicators have been sorted into four dimensions—environment, economic, social, and food and nutrition—to provide a holistic assessment. The sustainability indicator can track change over time as well.


Climate Services in Need of Investment: The World Meteorological Organization released its first report examining ways to support agriculture in an era of increased climate variability, the 2019 State of Climate Services: Food and Agriculture. It advocates for an investment of $2 billion in national institutions that deliver climate information and services.


Better Fries: After a poor potato harvest in the US and Canada, speculation of a potential French fry shortage has led to a bioscience company’s initiative to use artificial intelligence and gene editing to develop a more robust potato. Other crops have seen improvements in yield traits and scientists hope similar results can be replicated in potatoes.

Bacteria Doing Good: A group of Israeli researchers have developed a method evolving the E. Coli bacteria to consume carbon dioxide to grow, as plants do. This development in the bacteria holds promise for new technologies which could reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.   


Senator Isakson Honored: Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia was honored for his long legislative career championing US global leadership, receiving the USGLC’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The Senator was instrumental in the passage of the Global Food Security Act, which authorized USAID’s Feed the Future, and many other pieces of legislation promoting US leadership in global development. Senator Isakson is retiring on December 31. & COMMODITIES

China puts Pause in Tariff War: China announced it will waive tariffs on US soybean and pork imports, putting a pause in the 17-months-long trade war. Washington and Beijing are currently working on an interim deal to end the tariff war. US sales to China have fallen 90 percent since 2017, causing the Trump administration to give about $28 billion in aid to American farmers.

Brazilian Soy Surging Ahead: For the first time, Brazil is predicted to have a larger soybean crop than the United States. The area planted with soybeans in Brazil has grown by about one million hectares per year over the last decade. The nation has benefited from increased trade with China and a smaller US crop due to persistent spring rains.

USMCA Signed: The US-Mexico-Canada agreement gained the approval of Congressional Democrats and was signed by the three nations’ leaders this week. The deal needs approval from national legislatures before it can go into effect. US farmers will be allowed to sell more dairy and poultry products to Canada, and the agreement is expected to increase US agricultural exports by $2 billion. EVENTS

Designing and Growing an Agroforest
Date: 14-15 December
Location: Kauai, Hawai'i
Global Forum for Food and Agriculture
Date: 16-18 January
Location: Berlin, Germany

American Farm Bureau Federation Convention & Trade Show
Date: 17-22 January 2020
Location: Austin, Texas
Edible Institute
Date: 25-26 January 2020
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Please share any tips or thoughts on what we can do better here.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet. 

| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.