December 20, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Year of the Pig | Eel Mystery | FinTech on Phones

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A Look Back on the Year of the Pig

The Year of the Pig began on February 5, 2019, and it has been defined by an epidemic that has altered global agricultural markets. Although African Swine Fever (ASF) reached China in mid-2018, the disease has caused the most devastation in 2019. About one quarter of the world’s swine have died either through the disease or preventative culling in nations across East Asia and Eastern Europe. The full toll is unknown, however, in part due to many farmers in China culling their herds in secret.

Increased demand for substitute animal proteins have driven world food prices to two-year highs. The ASF-induced shocks to the global market are seen as a contributing factor in the recent trade deal between the US and China. Tyson Foods received approval to export poultry to China after the nation lifted a five-year ban on US poultry imports, which is projected to result in more than $1 billion in annual poultry shipments. OF THE WEEK

A farmer works on a cocoa farm in Bobia, Gagnoa, Cote d'Ivoire. (REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon) ACTORS 

Fishers Protest Regulations: In response to international scrutiny, Thailand passed reforms cracking down on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing five years ago. This week, thousands of fishers from 22 Thai provinces gathered in Bangkok to protest to protest the regulations. A prominent fishers’ association has issued demands to ease restrictions, but the government and international organizations are resistant.

Opec for Chocolate: Cocoa farmers only receive 6.6 percent of the value of the international cocoa supply chain. In response Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the two largest cocoa producers, announced a fixed price of $400 per ton moving forward from October 2020. This comes among moves from many chocolate manufacturers to transform the industry plagued by labor and environmental concerns, yet doubts over the efficacy of reforms persist.  


Links Between US Farmers and their Customers: Why does a US commodity organization invest time and resources in developing foreign agricultural industries? Ryan LeGrand, President and CEO of the US Grains Council, takes on this question in our latest collaboration with Agri-Pulse. Building up nascent industries now is an investment in what will become high-demand customers. Agriculture market development is a long game and building trade partners now benefits US farms of the future.  


Turkey invests in Organic Tea: The average Turk consumes about 3.5 kg of tea per year. That may change now that the Turkish government has begun subsidizing farmers who switch to organic production methods. The change could double the price of tea—while the government hopes for increased income from foreign markets, it is an open question how the domestic market will react.

Climate Troubles for Cotton: Erratic weather throughout the year’s cotton growing season may cost Pakistan’s cotton sector more than $3 billion by June 2020. A combination of heavy rains and dry spells have ruined almost one third of the expected harvest. In response, the government is stepping up to increase farmer resources including weather forecasts and new seed varieties.

The Mystery of Eels: The European eel is considered “critically endangered,” attended by fishing restrictions and a booming black-market trade with East Asia. Although the wild population of young eels is still fairly robust, the adult population has dropped off dramatically. Eels have resisted farming efforts which could rehabilitate population levels, because researchers still do not know what eel larvae eat and have only just successfully bred the animal in captivity. DIVE

Black and Green Tea from the Same Leaves: A wide variety of tea is available to consumers—green, black, oolong, white, or yellow. Most versions of these non-herbal teas, however, come from the same plant. Leaves of the Camillia sinesis plant are harvested, and how they are processed determines the ultimate flavor and color profile of the resulting beverage. Originally from China, Camillia sinesis has spread from Turkey to the Pacific Northwest, picking up distinctive terroir along the way. CRUNCH

Ag Tech and Animal Welfare: The past decade has seen advances in agricultural technology for all aspects of the sector, and the global $1 trillion meat industry is no exception. Monitoring systems such as remote video surveillance and electronic ankle bracelets for cattle have improved conditions in meat processing facilities. Many more advances are on the horizon, but this technology will still require human oversight.


Desert Locusts Invade Somalia: Tens of thousands of hectares of crops are under attack by desert locusts in Somalia. The invasion is the worst the country has seen in 25 years, and the FAO predicts that it will spread. The locusts are already in Ethiopia as well, and the FAO worries that ordinary control measures may be unfeasible.  

Child Malnutrition in Venezuela: Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis has and will continue to have dramatic effects on child nutrition. A recent study in several of the country’s states found that 16 percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition and almost twice that rate experience low growth rates. International aid thus far has failed to reach funding targets to address the problem.


Platforms for Farm Financing: Rather than handing out microloans to be paid later, a fintech company called myAgro has created a savings-based platform for smallholder financing. Serving over 60,000 farmers in Mali, Senegal, and Tanzania, the company uses SMS communication to avoid traditional costs. Farmers use the financing to purchase seeds and fertilizers.  


Funding Passes the Senate: The Senate voted 71-24 to pass legislation to fund a number of government programs. It is one of two fiscal 2020 spending measures expected to pass. The bill includes funding for Department of Agriculture programs and US foreign aid programs. & COMMODITIES

Skepticism over Trade Deal with China: US officials have announced that the new trade agreement with China will lead to an increase in agricultural export purchases by up to $50 billion. This $32 billion increase in forecast trade has been questioned by industry experts unsure of which purchases would drive that increase. China has not confirmed the proposed increase.
SEE ALSO: A History of Chinese Agricultural Imports from the US

DuPont to Merge with Nutrition IFF: DuPont’s nutrition business, valued at $26 billion, will merge with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. The new company will continue under the IFF name and is set to be a key supplier of food ingredients such as enzymes and soy proteins.

New Export Taxes for Argentinian Farmers: The new Argentinian government has raised export taxes on soy, wheat, and corn. The move is meant to raise revenue to address the nation’s debt but has provoked criticism from farmers. Argentina is currently the world’s third largest exporter of corn and soybeans. EVENTS
Global Forum for Food and Agriculture
Date: 16-18 January
Location: Berlin, Germany

​​​​American Farm Bureau Federation Convention & Trade Show
Date: 17-22 January
Location: Austin, Texas
Edible Institute

Date: 25-26 January
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Interdrought 2020
Date: 9-13 March
Location: Mexico City, Mexico

Global Food Security Symposium
Date: 26 March
Location: Washington, DC

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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.