March 27, 2020

Global Food for Thought: Export Bans | Farm Delivery | Locust Resurgence

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The Chicago Council is Adapting to Social Distancing

As we adjust to life in the time of COVID-19 and work to flatten the curve, the Chicago Council is hard at work to find new ways to reach you. We’re hosting virtual eventslive-streaming our podcast recordingscreating blog series, and so much more. Each week we’ll keep you posted on the work we’re doing to keep you informed, wherever you are. This week we livestreamed a conversation between Gro Intelligence CEO Sara Menker and S2G Ventures CIO Sanjeev Krishnan, moderated by Laura Reiley of the Washington Post. In case you weren't able to attend, we've posted the recording so that you can watch it any time. The Global Food and Agriculture is continuing its blog series on agricultural research and innovation around the world. Most recently, we featured a piece on innovative storage to reduce post-harvest losses for smallholder farmers. Next week, the Council will feature a conversations on illicit economies in the current pandemicUS-China relations, and 2020 economic trends. OF THE WEEK

A French farmer drives his tractor as he prepares the land before sowing during the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Anneux, France. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol) ACTORS 

Empty Fields: As the European Union closes borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, thousands of seasonal workers cannot travel to work on the farms they depend on--and who depend on them. With new harvest impending, European countries are getting creative with solutions to the chaos and new regulations caused by COVID-19, including calling for citizens to help in the fields. 


The Gendered Effects of COVID-19: The novel coronavirus has disrupted life all over the world, but is it affecting everyone equally? Women are experiencing the consequences of lockdowns and the virus' spread differently from men, and these differences need to be considered to create effective responses. The Council's Katelyn Jones and Tria Raimundo argue that policy makers must pay special attention to the ways women's economic power, health, and wellbeing are at risk.


Lessons from History: Lockdowns and panic food buying due to the coronavirus pandemic could ignite world food inflation. Export bans—especially of grain—and bulk buying by governments could exacerbate food insecurity, says the FAO. This is despite projections of a record year for rice and wheat, and overall ample food supply internationally. 
SEE ALSO: Produce Supply in EU 

Shifting Crops: Canada's average temperature over land has warmed by 1.7 degrees C (3 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1948, with the north warming by 2.3 degrees C, the government said in 2019. After failing to grow wheat in Canada's subarctic Yukon territory 15 years ago, farmers are now seeing success. One has reaped three straight harvests in a city not much further from the North Pole than the heart of Canada's crop belt Saskatchewan.  

Bracing for a Second Wave: Eggs laid by the locusts that invaded Eastern Africa are beginning to hatch in Kenya, forming new swarms. Although the Kenyan government and FAO are working to increase spraying the pests, swarms’ proximity to farms and villages presents a safety challenge. Groups are calling for a national, coordinated effort to address the locust crisis and protect food security. DIVE

Climate Change and Locust Swarms: Locust swarms are devastating the Horn of Africa. Why are the worst swarms in up to 70 years happening now? Heavy rains and warm temperatures are ideal conditions for locust breeding. The rapidly warming Indian Ocean led to multiple cyclones in 2019. These cyclones brought especially intense rains, thus creating the perfect storm for a locust swarm. CRUNCH

Robots in the Field: AI on the farm is a potential solution to current labor shortages. One company has created a robot that is able to weed fields leaving crops untouched thanks to machine learning. Technicians accompany the weeders to assist growers with the machines and troubleshoot if necessary. 


Reverberations of COVID-19: Seventy percent of people in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States expect their household to lose income due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a survey on Wednesday. This will have long term consequences for supply chains, liquidity, and for farmers globally.  

Aid in the Crisis: At the Venezuelan border with Columbia, smallholder farms provide produce to NGOs and kitchens to feed migrants and asylum-seekers. Agribusinesses such as Acceso Columbia connect smallholder farms to markets, with any 'imperfect' but completely edible products--such as misshapen potatoes--routed to Venezuelans who need them.



Climate-Smart Ag Adaptation on the Rise: Over the past decade, many smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe have suffered poor harvests due to drought, exacerbating an already dire situation for millions of people in need of food assistance. However, working with NGOs, one community has started to adapt. Along with weather monitoring and the usage of water-efficient drip irrigation systems, the participants have adapted to the challenging climate conditions by growing drought-tolerant crops that not only grow fast but also have high yields.  

 Farm Delivery: Farmers in rural areas are finding a new market in home produce delivery, helping nervous consumers avoid picked over grocery stores. The new business is important to many that previously delivered their products to restaurants and bars that are now closed.


Let's Make a Deal: The White House and Congressional leaders have reached agreement on a stimulus bill intending to re-energize the US economy as COVID-19 wreaks havoc, with significant provisions for agriculture. While small tweaks may still come, the bill passed the Senate and is expected to pass in the House as well in light of pandemic urgency. The bill provides $14 billion for USDA's Commodity Credit Corp spending authority, in addition to authorizing $9.5 billion for US farmers, namely livestock and specialty crop producers, negatively impacted by the pandemic. & COMMODITIES

Trade Negotiations Continued: China has promised it will not impose a nationwide ban on imports of U.S. poultry if the United States finds cases of avian flu, an industry group said, a policy change that could help Beijing fulfill commitments to buy more American farm goods. The agreement follows a Phase 1 deal to end a prolonged trade war between the world's two largest economies and highlights China's need for more imported meat as it battles a fatal pig disease.  

Fishy Slowdown: Seafood and other aquatic products are Vietnam’s top export products to China and Europe. Vietnamese seafood exporters are reporting nearly half of all international contracts have been cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite cutting prices, many say their warehouses inventories are filling up. EVENTS

Foodtank Live Virtual Interviews
Date: Daily

World Food Prize 2021 Nominations Webinar
Date: March 30

Livestream: The Illicit Economy in COVID-19 Era
Date: March 31

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.


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.