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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 events, live-streaming our podcast recordings, creating 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 pandemic, US-China relations, and 2020 economic trends.
PHOTO 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)
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.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES
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.
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.
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.
TRADE & 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.
Foodtank Live Virtual Interviews
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
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