July 17, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: SOFI 2020 | Global Methane | Market Shocks

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Global Hunger Increases for Fifth Consecutive Year 

The number of hungry people in the world increased by 10 million people last year, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition (SOFI), an annual UN report released this week. An additional 83-132 million people could become undernourished due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year. SOFI includes updated data for many countries, including undernourishment estimates for China dating back to 2000. The resulting estimates for global hunger are more accurate, and while the total number of undernourished in the world is lower than previously estimated, the rise in hunger over the past five years remains a troubling trend.  

An estimated 690 million people, 8.9 percent of the population, are hungry. Asia is home to the majority of the world’s undernourished population, but rates of undernourishment are growing the fastest in Africa. Nearly 750 million people experienced severe food insecurity in 2019, and 2 billion people did not have regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food. SOFI found that the gender gap in food access has increased over the past year, with women experiencing higher levels of moderate and sever food security. If these trends continue, the world will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) of zero hunger by 2030.

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


Bags of processed rice are seen arranged inside Miva Rice Mill's warehouse in Benue, Nigeria. (REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)


Meet our Emerging Leaders! The Council is proud to announce the 2021 class of our Emerging Leaders Program. Each year, the Council selects a highly competitive cohort of Chicago’s up-and-coming professionals to participate in a rigorous leadership development and global affairs training program. The 2021 class includes 22 of the city’s brightest rising stars. Learn more about the cohort here, and consider applying for next year’s cohort.

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

LIVE STREAM: Building a More Inclusive Foreign Service
Date: July 20
Time: 1 pm CDT

LIVE STREAM: Anne Applebaum on Autocracy’s Seductive Lure
Date: July 23
Time: 12:30 p.m. CDT

LIVE STREAM: Members-Only Conversation on Voting Rights, Access, and Integrity
Date: July 30
Time: 12 pm CDT

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


Shock Waves: The FAO and OECD have warned of a possible “market shock” of falling agriculture commodity prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The prediction is part of the two organizations’ annual 10-year agricultural outlook report. Pandemic-induced stockpiles of commodities could push down prices, especially for vegetable oil and animal-based products, but will stabilize over time.   

Nice Rice: Nigeria is the top rice producer in Africa, according to FAO data from 2014-2019, and production has been increasing at an annual average rate of nearly nine percent. The increase is attributed to the Anchor Borrower program, started in 2015, which provides farm inputs and cash to small-holder farmers.  Despite increased production, Nigeria is the fourth largest importer of rice and, along with other food crops, rice continues to increase in price for purchase.  

Methane on the Rise: The Global Methane Budget released this year show record high emission. Agriculture production worldwide along with the gas industry have spiked global methane emissions nearly ten percent over the past two decades. Expanding agriculture production in South Asia, South America and Africa and increased oil drilling in the U.S and China are the primary contributors. Europe is the only region where emission have dropped, thanks to lowered meat consumption and strict landfill and manure regulations. 

SEE ALSO: Burger King seeks to lower emissions with lemongrass  

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

What is the difference between hunger and food insecurity? The two ideas are deeply connected, but not the same. When SOFI reports on hunger in the world, it refers to the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU). This is an estimate of how many people’s habitual food consumption does not provide sufficient dietary energy levels to maintain health. PoU is indicator 2.1.1 of SDG 2. Food insecurity (indicator 2.1.2), whether moderate or severe, measures an individual’s or household’s access to an appropriate quality and/or quantity of food.  

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

Big Coffee and Small Farmers: Farmer Connect is partnering with Folgers brand coffee to increase production transparency using blockchain. A QR code on packaging will allow consumers to learn how their coffee was produced and how it arrived at their point of sale. This includes information on small farm agricultural programs. The companies hope the initiative will increase fairness in the global coffee supply chain.  


A New Approach to Malnutrition: Malnutrition treatment currently fails to reach 75 percent of acutely malnourished children globally. Currently, severely acute and moderately acute malnourishment are treated by separate UN agencies using different techniques. A recent study shows that combining both treatments would reach a greater number of malnourished populations while also costing significantly less per person. 


Space(fish) Cakes: A biotech startup claims it can grow fish meat in space without the fish. The reported breakthrough raises hopes not just for further space exploration, but also for the future of cultured food here on Earth. While widespread adoption of “cultured meat” seems far off, a new study soon to be published finds that describing lab-grown meat and fish as “cell-based” is the clearest to consumers. 


Appropriations Moving Forward: Following the release and mark up of the first tranche of Appropriations bills out of the House Appropriations committee Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, announces his intentions to take up the first package of fiscal 2021 appropriations bills. This would include the Agriculture-FDA-Interior-Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and State-Foreign Operations bills next week.  

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

Investing in AI: Google will invest $10 billion to launch Google for India Digitalization Fund. The fund will expand digitalization over the next five to seven years and will focus on information accessibility, including AI in agriculture, in addition to education and health, to facilitate the transition to a digital economy.   

Food Tank Founder Recognized: The Julia Child Award was awarded this week to Danielle Nierenberg, renowned activist and co-founder of the research organization Food Tank. Nierenberg is being recognized for her work with farmers, policymakers, and scientists to form solutions around food access, affordability, racism and other social justice issues plaguing modern food systems. 

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

Record Corn Purchase from China: China booked its second-largest single-day US corn purchase on record, according to the USDA. This move comes at a time where the country works to fulfill its Phase 1 trade deal obligation to buy $80 billion of US agricultural products over the next two years. The USDA stated that China bought 765,000 tons of corn for shipment in the current marketing year which ends Aug 31 and 600,000 tons for shipment in the following year.  

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

Managing Agricultural Trade in an Increasingly Chaotic World
Date: July 22
Time: 10 am CDT

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.