April 10, 2020

Global Food for Thought: Recession | Coffee | Delayed Pesticides

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Stockpiling or Cooperating, Nations Seek Food Security 

ShapeDespite warnings from the FAO, many nations have taken actions to limit exports or stockpile commodities. Some bans on exports, such as the case of rice in India, are largely due to labor shortages after national lockdowns. Vietnam’s ban on rice exports and Kazakhstan’s ban on flour exports, however, were enacted to ensure domestic supply. Although both have been walked back with announcements of new export quotas, global wheat and rice prices have already risen sharply. Russia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan had also enacted export quotas. On the importing side, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the Philippines have all taken steps to increase their domestic stores of grain. All of these actions run counter to the fact that global wheat and rice inventories are at record or near record highs. 

On the other, more hopeful end of the spectrum, however, 25 Latin American and Caribbean nations have signed an agreement of cooperation during the pandemic to coordinate for regional food security. The declaration explicitly recognizes the current global abundance, and commits to supporting small-  and medium-sized agricultural operations. Honduras has taken extra steps to ensure food security, through a plan to plant food on unoccupied lands.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkyvc/557772/225998/camera_icon.pngPHOTO OF THE WEEK

Coffee berries are seen in an plantation in the town of Kirinyaga near Nyeri, Kenya. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)


Hand washing, Data, and Hope: Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to combat the novel coronavirus. But what does that mean for the millions without readily available access to running water and soap? Roger Thurow explored the long-term consequences of the pandemic for health and nutrition this week on our blog, before sharing his insights in a livestream discussion on climate change and the pandemic. Sara Menker of Gro Intelligence wrote about the long-term consequences of current value chain disruptions for the global food system. In our series Field Notes, we feature two stories from CGIAR research centers. The first, from the International Potato Center, celebrates the potential of public private partnerships, while the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT chronicles the research and policy impacts of a standardized survey for rural households around the world. Katelyn Jones, our Women, Peace, and Security Fellow examines AI’s potential in agriculture to exacerbate inequalities between men and women farmers. In our latest collaboration with Agri-Pulse, Julie Borlaug offers up a vision of hope through agriculture

 https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/calendar_icon.pngUPCOMING COUNCIL EVENTS

VIRTUAL: The 2020 Census' Impact on Millennials
Date: April 13
Time: 3 pm CT

LIVE STREAM: Gender and Humanitarian Dimensions of COVID-19
Date: April 15
Time: 12:00 pm CT

LIVE STREAM: Ian Bremmer on Geopolitical Risk in 2020
Date: April 16
Time: 11:30 am CT

LIVE STREAM: WHO COVID-19 Special Envoy David Nabarro, MD, on Lessons in Leadership
Date: April 20
Time: 10 am CT

Did you miss one of our previous livestreams? Don't worry! They are all available on our website to watch at any time. 


Supply Lockdown: The country-wide lockdown of India is causing issues within the country’s food supply chain. The country’s food system is heavily fragmented, with more than half of the population involved in the growing, delivering, and selling of food, often in small operations. This has led to difficulties in ensuring a constant supply of goods such as grains and vegetables, as less people are able to work in the fields and in transporting harvested goods to distributors and stores.   

Coffee Grinds to a Halt: About half of Kenya’s coffee producers grow export-oriented specialty-grade coffee and the overall coffee sector is one of the nation’s top five foreign exchange earners. With most importing nations closing their cafes due to the coronavirus, specialty growers have been hit hard. Many countries are stockpiling mid-grade supermarket quality beans, leaving high-end producers without a market.
SEE ALSO: Colombian Farmers Switch Coca for Coffee

Opinion: Urgent Food Security Action Needed: Before the pandemic, 820 million people did not have enough to eat. In the economic aftermath, those numbers are sure to rise. Agnes Kalibata, Thanawat Tiensin, and Martin Cole argue that now is the time for governments and leaders to re-examine national and global food systems. Building resilient systems that protect the most vulnerable is more important than ever. 

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/news_icon.pngDEEPER DIVE

How does coffee make the grade? Each coffee-producing nation has their own grading system to classify the quality of the beans for export. Typically speaking though, coffee is graded and classified by altitude, botanical variety, preparation, defects, density, and size. The theory of classification by size is that high-altitude coffees produce larger, denser berries. These plants also grow more slowly and develop sought after flavor profiles.   

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/chart_icon.pngDATA CRUNCH

A Pandemic Policy Platform: The FAO has revamped its online platform containing information on different countries’ food security policies. The Food and Agriculture Policy Decision Analysis Tool now features a new section that aims to make it easier for UN member states to see what decisions their peers are making in the COVID-19 pandemic. FAO hopes the platform will help governments consider all. their options when making choices that affect the global supply chain. 


Pesticides for Locusts Delayed: Efforts to combat the locust swarms in East Africa have been hampered by largescale flight delays and cancellations. Pesticide shipments due to arrive in Ethiopia and Kenya have been delayed, causing authorities to look for alternative local options. Flight restrictions have also made it difficult to use helicopters for surveillance of the swarms, further hurting efforts. 

Looking Up for Solutions: With increasing global supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic, Singapore is trying to ramp up domestic food production. Only one percent of land in the city-state is dedicated to agriculture, and only 10 percent of food consumed there is domestically produced. To bolster local production, the government is seeking to turn car park rooftops into urban farms.


Seed Sovereignty: An international nonprofit is working to provide resources and education to farmers in the Philippines to support their ability to achieve food sovereignty. Global Seed Savers has provided over 5000 hours of training on how to create, store, and sell seeds adapted for the region. The organization has also developed four seed libraries in a Northern Philippine region to increase farmer’s access to the seeds.  

Waste Watching: Over one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted, however a new startup is seeking to fix that. Winnow allows chefs around the globe to track their food waste and make waste reduction more efficient. Winnow’s Waste Monitoring System tracks trash cans using AI linked cameras to identify, track, and measure food waste and is already being used by chefs in 40 different countries.  


Safeguarding the Future: The Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) is funding additional veterinary research into pandemics and zoonotic diseases. Because 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, continued research on these pathogens is essential to understanding and preventing future pandemics.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/globe_icon.pngBIG ACTORS 

Recession Looms: Value chain disruptions, reductions in tourism, and health impacts are among converging impacts from COVID-19 which will cause a recession in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020, according to a new World Bank report. This would be the first recession for the region in 25 years. COVID-19 has the potential to spark a food security crisis as well, with disruptions in both agricultural production and food imports. Some nations have already taken steps to help domestic food production-South Africa recently set aside $64 million for small-scale farmers, and Zimbabwe reopened produce markets.

Tech Revitalization: The FAO announced a partnership with the Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences (JAAS) with the aim of advancing technology to support smallholder farmers. The partnership will specifically focus on more efficient urban-rural linkages and rural farming revitalization, specifically within the FAO’s South-South and triangular cooperation framework.     

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/market_icon.pngTRADE & COMMODITIES

Honey Hit: An unforeseen consequence of limited movement around China has been a disruption in the work of the country’s many beekeepers. China’s beekeepers, who produce roughly 25 percent of the world’s honey supply, were unable to follow their typical patterns of movement in search of pollen and nectar during the lockdown, leading to hive loss and limited production.  

Low Waters mean Light Ships: Argentina’s Parana River is at a decades-low level. The river is the main route for grain from the Pampas agricultural region to Atlantic export hubs, and lower water levels are forcing ships to take thousands of tons less with each trip. The coincides with peak soy and corn harvesting season, and the Parana water levels are expected to drop further in the coming weeks.  

 https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/calendar_icon.pngOTHER UPCOMING EVENTS

Foodtank Live Virtual Interviews
Date: Daily

COVID-19 Open Online Briefing with Dr. David Nabarro 
Date: April 14 at 10 am CT and April 16 at 8:30 CEST 

World Food Prize Digital Dialogue with Catherine Bertini, Shenggen Fan, David Nabarro, and Barbara Stinson 
Date: April 16 
Time: 9 am CT 

Online Event: Are We Heading toward Another Global Food Price Crisis? 
Date: April 17 
Time: 9 am CT 


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


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