July 12, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Research | Crop Declines | Women Innovating

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https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-09-21/5xdymt/557772/224304/quote2.pngTOP STORY

The Next Decade of Agriculture

FAO and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development have released their annual agricultural outlook report for 2019-2028. Over the next decade, demand for agricultural products is forecast to grow globally by 15 percent but agricultural productivity is expected to increase marginally faster, keeping food prices low. New uncertainties including trade disputes, crop and animal disease, antimicrobial resistance, increasing urbanization, and climate change all provide challenges for agriculture in the future. African swine fever is predicted to cause a depression in global pork production, but FAO reports that this should resolve by 2020.

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

A worker sorts coffee beans at Crake Valley Farm in Vumba, Zimbabwe. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

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

UN Development Goals Report: The United Nations recently published its 2019 SDG Report, which finds that the world is not on track to meet several of its goals – such as ending hunger and extreme poverty - by 2030. In fact, the number of people going hungry has increased since 2014, from 784 million to 821 million. The United Nations warned that the effects of climate change on global temperatures, ocean acidity, and biodiversity may undermine decades of efforts to reduce poverty and inequality.   

Opinion – The Importance of CGIAR: The world’s largest agricultural research organization is still unknown to many people. CGIAR developed disease-resistant rice and wheat which launched the Green Revolution, and continuously works to improve seeds and create new tools and techniques for farmers. Their work will be crucial to future food security.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkyvw/557772/226010/insights_icon.pngCOUNCIL INSIGHTS

Leading Change in United Nations Organizations: How do incoming senior officials of the UN transition into their roles? The process is critical to agencies and their missions. Yet little guidance is provided to incoming executive heads. Distinguished Fellow Catherine Bertini has authored a new report to provide that guidance through the early phases of UN leadership; from preparations upon appointment to the first 100 days in office, and the implementation and assessment of transformational organizational change. Bertini’s experience as executive director of the UN World Food Program informed this report, along with interviews and discussions with seventeen former UN CEOs and deputies.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkywr/557772/226026/grow_Icon.pngFOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES

Crop Declines: Researchers tracked yields of the ten crops that provide the bulk of global food calories and found that while some crops in certain regions benefit from climate change, net yields of rice and wheat decline. The net annual decline in all ten crops studied translates 35 trillion calories lost per year—enough to feed 50 million people. 

Creepy Crawlies in the Food Chain: Several companies in the United States, France, and South Africa are raising and processing insects, including mealworms and black soldier flies, to produce feed for animals, particularly fish. While regulatory barriers remain, this could be an environmentally and economically beneficial alternative for fish farms.   

Venezuelan Fuel Shortage: Venezuela’s fuel shortage has forced farmers to slash their planting areas and leave fields fallow. Without gas, farmers cannot transport their crops to distribution centers or purchase seeds and fertilizer. Yields of potatoes, carrots, and sugar have fallen by 50 percent, and that the area of land planted with corn and rice is predicted to shrink by half. As such, produce prices have skyrocketed, leading Venezuelans to turn to processed, less nutritious alternatives.

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

What is CGIAR? Formerly known as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, this entity is actually made up of 15 independent research centers located on five continents. Some focus on improving specific crops, such as potatoes, rice, corn, and wheat. Others address water management, livestock, or food policy. The results from their research centers have been critical to improving nutrition for millions of people. CGIAR is a truly global endeavor supported by diverse nations and foundations.

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

Help from Space: Satellite imagery is helping the agricultural sector better predict global yields and therefore how prices for commodities will respond. The technology was initially applied by the USDA and now there is only a ten-day lag between data collection, analysis and release.


Water Shortage and Resilience in Pakistan: 1,500 people in Pakistan’s Sindh province rallied to demand that the government declare a water emergency in the region. The Indus River Basin produces 90 percent of the nation’s agricultural output yet now only receives one third of the water it needs. The Green Climate Fund recently approved an FAO project designed to improve the Basin’s resilience to climate change.

Adapting to Drought: As Somalia endures its fifth consecutive year of drought, many aid organizations in the country are turning from emergency response to capacity building. NGOs face the dual challenge of building agricultural resilience and encouraging the adoption of farming over the predominant pastoralism. Groups are helping communities implement climate-smart techniques that conserve water and boost crop yields.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkzwh/557772/226054/big_ideas.pngBIG IDEAS

AI is Revolutionizing Agriculture: Across the world, the agricultural industry is using AI in order to better manage and monitor their farms, increasing crop productivity, output and safety. Agriculture bots are helping farmers harvest larger quantities of crops, and some provide advice and answer questions.

Women in AgTech: In 2018, only 4 percent of money invested in food and agriculture technology went to female-led startups. However, engaging women at every level of agriculture increases productivity; giving women farmers the same resources as men can increase yields by 20-30 percent. Several new technology companies founded by women are responding to this need and improving access to resources. 

Lab-Grown Meat: Advances in the growth of meat from stem cells has seen production costs for a hamburger fall from $280,000 to just over $100, bringing lab-grown meat one step closer to market. Despite controversy, the USDA and FDA recently agreed to inspect and regulate cultured meat, and European startups hope to have their products on the market within two years.  

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkzwt/557772/226058/dc_icon.pngDC REPORT

Waiting Game: After a breakdown in conversations in May, a deal between the United States and China on trade is still waiting to be seen. President Trump and President Xi Jinping met in late June, with Trump agreeing to suspend the latest rounds of tariffs while the two sides resumed talks. Although China purchased 544,000 metric tons of soybeans from the United States before the meeting, there is disagreement over whether China agreed to purchase more agricultural and industrial products soon. There has been no official word on when a trade deal is expected to be reached, almost a year after the trade war began.

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

Coffee Jitters: Coffee growers from Brazil, Colombia, and more than two dozen other countries are meeting in order to discuss how to enforce a minimum price for coffee. Recently, the price for arabica beans reached a 14-year low, forcing many to abandon their farms. In contrast, Zimbabwe’s coffee production is seeing a resurgence due to Nespresso’s demand for premium Arabica coffee beans.

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

AgTech Nexus 2019
Date: July 22-23
Location: Chicago, IL

World Congress on Advancing Nutritional and Food Sciences
Date: July 23-24
Location: Rome, Italy
Aid & International Development Forum Global Summit
Date: September 4
Location: Washington, DC
Feeding the Future
Date: September 26
Location: London, England

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.