March 20, 2020

Global Food for Thought: Distillers | Farm Labor | Predicting Pandemic Impact

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Labor and Supply Chains Continue to Adapt to COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world, its effects reverberate throughout global labor forces and supply chains. More consumers are stocking up on weeks’ worth of food, demonstrating the importance of a robust trucking fleet. Yet tightening borders reveal that having an abundance of trucks does not guarantee delivery of products—and border restrictions aren’t just stopping products. With increasing numbers of countries closing their borders or requiring quarantine upon entry, migratory farm workers may soon be unable to travel for work. Some countries have stopped granting visas for temporary and seasonal workers, upon whom many farms depend for labor. Even within nations, such as China and Italy, restrictions on movement to limit the virus' spread have caused concerns for farmers in need of workers. OF THE WEEK

A box of free hand sanitizers is pictured at Chambers Bay Distillery, which is creating the product with ethanol alcohol. (REUTERS/David Ryder) ACTORS 

Northern Investment: The Canadian Government has announced a new initiative, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, that will invest $17.6 million CAD in 690 agricultural sector projects. The aims of the project are to make the Canadian market more competitive while also improving productivity and environmental sustainability.  

Funds for Farmers: The International Fund for Agricultural Development of the United Nations has announced support for a $72.5 million program to improve the livelihoods of rural farmers in Mozambique. Rural farmers make up 70 percent of the nation's population. Building their resilience and developing their livelihoods is key to the nation's food security. 


Fishmeal, Happy Seeders, and Resilience+: This week's Field Notes features a piece from the Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience introducing the concept of Resilience+, the phenomenon of how field research for resilience can liberate families to prudentially focus on building a better livelihood for themselves and their children. We also have a story from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) on how systems thinking in South Asia lead to adoption of the Happy Seeder, equipment for zero tillage agriculture. Finally, the Innovation Lab for Fish explores sustainable alternatives to fishmeal to boost aquaculture in Zambia.


Sneaking Veggies into Meat: In response to growing sustainability and health concerns about meat consumption, big producers are getting creative. Several companies are launching blended products containing both meat and vegetables or plant proteins. Although the vegetables boost the flavor of products, the addition also increases their price. 

In South Korea, No Small Potatoes: In Gangwon, a South Korean province known for its potatoes, nearly 11,000 tons of the tuber are in storage and at risk of rotting. Demand plummeted when the nation closed restaurants and schools in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The provincial government has launched a successful online promotional campaign offering the potatoes at a sharp discount to avoid wasting the crop in storage. 

Food Price Volatility: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to food price volatility and shortages, as seen in Sudan. Since the first case was discovered there, food prices have tripled, leading to concerns of food insecurity and hunger. The increases are forcing people to continue working, as opposed to quarantine, in order to afford food. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Indian farmers have seen commodity prices fall as increased restrictions have lowered food demand. DIVE

COVID-19 and Food Security: As with any large scale crisis, the most vulnerable will likely be the most affected. The global pandemic has already affected the food security of millions. Widespread school closures put children's nutrition at risk. People on fixed incomes-including seniors-are less able to stock up on 2 weeks of groceries. And some contend that the economic effects of the pandemic may have larger consequences on global food security than the illness itself. While we don't know the full effects now, it is clear that ensuring food security during the pandemic is paramount. CRUNCH

Predicting Economic Fallout: An AI tool created by the firm Gro Intelligence Inc. is being used to model how the Chinese economy is bouncing back after the fallout caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. The tool uses 650 trillion data points every day to forecast demand for different commodities. The model is using data from China on the initial fall and current rebound of wholesale chicken prices to demonstrate the return of agricultural demand. 


Building International Farmer Connections: A report back from a trip to Kenya taken by agricultural professionals from Illinois highlighted the importance of international farm connections. The Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation brought 29 fellows on the trip, which visited the company Hello Tractor, as well as the International Livestock Research Institute and the offices of AGRA. 

Giving Slowdown: Nonprofits are becoming increasingly worried at how the volatile stock markets will affect their donations. The growing concern is that wealthy donors may be more concerned with maintaining an already diminished wealth as opposed to their usual donations. These problems, should they be realized, could have far-reaching effects on support in global aid and food insecurity support.  
SEE ALSO: Food banks see slowing donations


From Whiskey to Sanitizer: As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, several countries are facing shortages in alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Distillers are stepping up to fill in the supply gaps by making their own sanitizer. Most  are donating their creations to community groups harmed by the shortage. 

Agriculture in Ethiopia: Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of employment opportunities in Ethiopia. Khalid Bomba, CEO of the Ethiopian Transformation Agency, explains the potential for youth in agriculture and why Ethiopia has one of the world's fastest growing economies in the Chicago Council's latest Wait Just a Minute video


USAID Departure: USAID Administrator Mark Green is resigning from his post after two-and-a-half years and returning to the private sector. Administrator Green oversaw billions of dollars in humanitarian and development programming, including a new focus on the Journey to Self Reliance and an ongoing reorganization of USAID's bureaus. John Barsa, USAID's current Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, will serve as Acting Administrator after Green's departure on April 10. & COMMODITIES

Poultry on Track: Last year, poultry production in China rose 12 percent to compensate for the nation's domestic pork shortage. According to official statements, Chinese poultry production for 2020 is on track to match the sector's 2019 output.
SEE ALSO: Panicked Consumers Buy Up Chicken

Modeled Shocks: How would a climate shock in one country affect global supply chains? A new study simulates how a modern-day Dust Bowl in the US would affect global trade of wheat. Researchers saw a 31 percent decline in global wheat stocks, as the 174 countries that import US wheat would have to tap into their own reserves to adapt to a fall in supply. EVENTS

Foodtank Live Virtual Interviews
Date: Daily

Global Food Security Challenges in the Era of COVID-19
Date: March 26
Location: Virtual Program

African Green Revolution Forum
Date: 8-11 September
Location: Kigali, Rwanda

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.


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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.