COVID-19 News Links: April Archives

Compiled 2020/05/01

Supply chains must be shortened and localised, urges FAO

2020/04/22

Topic: Necessity of restructuring food supply chains

“Preserving access to safe food and nutrition is an essential part of the health response,” said Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Qu Dongyu in an address to the Agricultural Ministers of the G20 nations. “‘The crisis opens an opportunity to accelerate food system transformation,’ he said, pointing to e-commerce tools as a way to enhance local resilience and bolster direct links between producers and consumers. ‘New business models are needed. It is the time to speed-up e-commerce in agriculture and food systems across the globe.’”

 

COVID-19 Is Expected To Be A Key Driver Of Acute Food Insecurity

2020/04/23

Topic: Food insecurity due to COVID-19

The United Nations World Food Programme estimates COVID-19 will double the number of people suffering from a food crisis. They say “the 55 countries and territories that are home to 135 million acutely food-insecure people in need of urgent humanitarian food and nutrition assistance are the most vulnerable to the consequences of this pandemic as they have very limited or no capacity to cope with either the health or socioeconomic aspects of the shock.” The crisis is expected to worsen already dire situations around the globe. “This crisis represents a dramatic opportunity to reimagine what our society and economy could be if organized on different terms,” says Dr Cedric Habiyaremye, research associate at Washington State University and agricultural entrepreneur.

 

COVID-19: Feds announce 75 per cent rent reduction for small businesses impacted by virus

2020/04/24

Topic: Rent relief for small businesses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced rent relief for small businesses affected by COVID-19. These measures will be implemented in conjunction with the provinces and territories. “The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses will provide forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners to cover 50 per cent of three monthly rent payments payable by eligible small business tenants experiencing financial hardship during April, May and June. The loans will be forgiven if the mortgaged property owner agrees to reduce the eligible small business tenants’ rent by at least 75 per cent for the three corresponding months under a rent forgiveness agreement, which will include a pledge not to evict the tenant while the agreement is in place.”

 

Canada’s meat-and-potato problem: Coronavirus pandemic hits the food supply chain

2020/04/26

Topic: Food supply chain disruption

“Canada’s potato industry joins a growing number of food sectors that finds itself in crisis, a crisis sparked by the near elimination of demand for french fries,” due to the closure of restaurants. The Canadian Potato Council has sent Agriculture and Agri-food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau a plea for “urgent required interventions.” In addition, “Meat-packing plants in Alberta and Ontario responsible for a substantial portion of Canada’s beef are shut or running reduced lines as they grapple with COVID-19 outbreaks.” Harvesters of fish and shellfish are uncertain whether their work can be done profitably. “NDP MP Gord Johns said the federal government should institute a ‘Canada Purchase Program’ to essentially become the buyer of last resort for fish, seafood and other agricultural products where demand has fallen off.”

 

Coronavirus outbreak: Canada’s food industries in crisis; More U.S. states to ease restrictions

2020/04/26

Topic: Surplus of food product likely to go to waste

The closure of restaurants has eliminated most of the existing demand for french fries, preventing potato farmers from moving a large portion of their product to market. This surplus of potatoes is matched by a looming shortage of beef, pork, and seafood as processing facilities close or are forced to limit production.

 

Trump orders meat processing plants to stay open

2020/04/28

Topic: US processing plants ordered to remain open

“President Donald Trump signed an executive order under the Defense Production Act to compel meat processing plants to remain open amid the coronavirus pandemic[….] The President signed the order after some companies, such as Tyson Foods, were considering only keeping 20% of their facilities open.” The administration is coordinating with the Department of Labor on issuing guidance regarding vulnerable employees and determining who should stay at home. Meat processing executives warn that US meat supply could be at risk. “For years, major meat processors have been ruthlessly tamping down on costs and increasing efficiencies. […] efforts to speed up processing has led to workers standing closer together — about three or four feet apart from each other while working.” Politicians across the aisle have warned of the dangers of mandating the facilities remain open without first ensuring the safety of the workers.

 

Coronavirus spurs new clash between Big Oil and Big Corn over U.S. biofuels

2020/04/16

Topic: US biofuel policy

There is disagreement between US oil and agriculture industries as to whether the national biofuel policy should be suspended or expanded as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. “The oil refining industry and its backers have asked the Trump administration to help the industry weather the pandemic by reducing a regulatory requirement that they blend billions of gallons of corn-based ethanol into their gasoline each year, arguing it is a cost many facilities cannot currently afford. The corn lobby, meanwhile, has been pushing for the blending requirements, mandated under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, to be expanded to help farmers who have seen demand for their crop drop swiftly as biofuel plants across the country go idle.” US gasoline demand has fallen by a third due to the pandemic, and gasoline profit margins are the lowest since 2008 as a result. Concurrently, nearly half of US ethanol production has idled due to falling demand.

 

U.S. announces $19 billion coronavirus aid for farmers, food buys for poor

2020/04/17

Topic: Government aid for US farmers

“President Donald Trump on Friday announced a $19 billion relief program to help U.S. farmers cope with the impact of the coronavirus, including $16 billion in direct payments to producers and mass purchases of meat, dairy, vegetables and other products.” $3 billion of purchased farm goods will go to food banks, churches and aid groups. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue hopes cheques will be sent by the end of May. “The $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers will include $9.6 billion for the livestock industry – with $5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy and $1.6 billion for hogs [….] In addition, $3.9 billion will be paid to row crop producers, $2.1 billion for specialty crop farmers and $500 million for other crops [….] The payments are capped at $250,000 per individual farmer or entity.”

 

Conspiracy theorists burn 5G towers claiming link to virus

2020/04/21

Topic: Conspiracy theories link COVID-19 to 5G cellular towers

Conspiracy theorists in Europe and the UK are vandalizing 5G towers and harrassing telecom workers, claiming there is a link between the wireless network and the current COVID-19 pandemic. “Some 50 fires targeting cell towers and other equipment have been reported in Britain this month, leading to three arrests. Telecom engineers have been abused on the job 80 times.” Claims vary from assertions that coronavirus is a coverup for 5G deployment, to allegations that 5G caused the virus. There is no evidence to support this. “The theories gained momentum in 2019 from Russian state media outlets, which helped push them into U.S. domestic conversation, disinformation experts say.”

 

Ottawa watching food supply chain ‘very, very carefully’ after Alberta outbreak

2020/04/21

Topic: Disruptions in supply chain due to Cargill plant closure

The Cargill meat packing plant will shut down temporarily after one worker died and more than 484 fell ill following a surge in corona virus. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says “right now the priority will be on domestic supply. We are not, at this point, anticipating shortages of beef, but prices might go up. We will, of course, be monitoring that very, very carefully.” Employees have accused the company of ignoring social distancing regulations and of luring them out of safety and back to work. The close living and working conditions of employees at these plants places them particularly at risk. Several other meat processing plants are experiencing similar outbreaks on a smaller scale.

 

Why it’s naive to send unemployed Canadians to work on labour-strapped farms

2020/04/21

Topic: Canada’s reliance on temporary foreign workers

Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph in Ontario says farm work is “not unskilled labour.” He explains, “There’s a naiveté, among some urban Canadians, that we could simply take unemployed Canadians with no background in agriculture and whip them into an effective workforce for a farmer. You could take a bunch of high-school kids that are about to graduate and are bored right now, and give them pruning shears and point them at an apple orchard … It would be a disaster for the farmer.” Canadian agriculture has long depended on temporary foreign workers from Mexico and the Carribean to fill the majority of jobs on farms and in food processing plants, but “the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) fears the vacancy rate will be far worse this year given that the coronavirus crisis complicates travel for many temporary workers.” Early crops, such as asparagus, are already suffering.

 

Bunge to sell 35 U.S. grain elevators to Zen-Noh Grain

2020/04/21

Topic: Financial restructuring of agricultural commodities trader Bunge Ltd

Bunge Ltd. has announced it will sell 35 of its interior U.S. grain elevators to Zen-Noh Grain Corporation. “Bunge will retain ownership of its bulk grain export terminal in Detrehan, Louisiana, and its jointly owned EGT Grain export terminal in Longview, Washington. It will also retain ownership of elevators in its Bunge-SCF Grain joint venture and elevators in Indiana that supply its Morristown soybean processing plant. ‘This transaction will allow Bunge to operate more efficiently and re-invest in higher returning areas of the company while reducing costs and strengthening our balance sheet,’ Bunge CEO Greg Heckman said in a news release.”

 

Fertiliser Price Assumptions Cut on Input Costs, Coronavirus

2020/04/21

Topic: Fertiliser price assumptions cut

“Fitch Ratings has cut its fertiliser price assumptions across all major nutrients due to cheaper energy feedstock, looming oversupply, and short-term risks resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.”

  • “We have reduced our ammonia price assumptions as we forecast natural gas prices in 2020 and 2021 will reach their lowest in a decade.”
  • “Urea price assumptions have been cut as we expect China, a high-cost urea exporter, to switch its feedstock from expensive anthracite to lower cost bituminous coal. “
  • “Our phosphate rock price assumption of USD85/tonne in 2020 reflects year-to-date prices, with no expected shifts in demand-supply for the rest of the year.”
  • “DAP market prices have experienced the largest drop, so we have revised our 2020 price assumption by USD70/tonne reflecting decreasing prices of ammonia, sulphur and phosphate rock.”
  • “Potash prices are currently driven by spot markets, particularly in Brazil, while fixed-price contracts with China have been absent for over a year due to record-high Chinese potash inventories in early 2020. Without contract pricing serving as a price floor, spot markets will put pressure on potash prices, which we expect to average USD220/tonne in 2020, down from around USD240/tonne in 1Q20.

 

 

Compiled 2020/04/23

Why Social Distancing Could Stretch to 2022

2020/04/03

Topic: Public health emergency with extended periods of social distancing my last as long as 2022

A “group of modellers and epidemiologists at Harvard University warns that a single period of social distancing will not be sufficient to quell the pandemic in any given community because the virus will come roaring back once restrictions have been eased.” Social distancing measures may be required “for 25 to 70 per cent” of the next two years in order to keep hospitals from becoming overloaded. According to one study, “an additional month of physical distancing after an outbreak will only buy two months of relaxed measures before the reinstatement of lockdown to protect hospitals from being slammed by the virus.”

 

Flight of the beekeepers: Nicaraguan workers crucial to Canada’s food supply chain are on their way

2020/04/12

Topic: Arrival of temporary foreign workers bound for commercial bee operations in Canada

The Canadian Honey Council chartered a plane to fly 80 skilled workers from Nicaragua to Canada at the cost of roughly $200,000. “The federal government last month allowed the entry of foreign workers, stipulating that they must quarantine for 14 days. But travel has been delayed because visa offices in foreign countries have been closed and commercial flights have become scarce.” Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says “We do anticipate a shortfall [in temporary foreign workers]. It’s still hard to say how many. Is it going to be 70 per cent that will be coming? Will it be 80 per cent? It’s hard to tell.”

 

Top Pork Producer Shuts Major Plant After Coronavirus Sickens Workers

2020/04/13

Topic: Closure of Smithfield pork processing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

“Smithfield, the world’s biggest pork producer, has indefinitely shuttered its sprawling pork processing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after more than 230 workers tested positive for the coronavirus,” accounting for more than half of the active coronavirus cases in the state. The plant employs “3,700 people and accounts for 4% to 5% of U.S. pork production.” Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan warns of disastrous effects in retail supply chains. 

 

COVID-19 to have ‘immediate and drastic’ impact on Canadian meat supply: industry group

2020/04/13

Topic: Effect of closure of meat production plants on food supply chains

“Beef processing capabilities have been reduced at a number of facilities in Canada and the U.S., including a temporary reduction at a Cargill meat plant in High River, Alta.,” which represents just over one-third of Canada’s processing capability. Other Canadian plants have reduced their operations to implement COVID-19 safety measures. Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Bob Lowe says “The Canadian beef industry is facing a period of extraordinary uncertainty.” “On Sunday, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, […] warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers.”

 

Plan to start reopening Saskatchewan could come next week

2020/04/14

Topic: Plan to reopen Saskatchewan economy if number of new COVID-19 cases remains low

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe “said in his daily news conference on Monday that the release of a plan called Reopen Saskatchewan would depend on continued low case counts and ramped up testing [….] Any reopening of the economy — which Moe said would be done cautiously, methodically and gradually — would depend on businesses continuing to practise physical distancing and enhanced cleaning.” Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, warns that allowing a few businesses to reopen does not mean a return to normalcy.

 

John Ivison: The reality about food and drug shortages in Canada due to COVID-19

2020/04/14

Topic: Opinion piece on overly optimistic outlook of federal government

Closures of meat production plants, limits on drug exports, and shortage of temporary foreign workers point to possible food and drug shortages for Canada in the coming months. “The cumulative impact of straining supply chains could be food price inflation as high as 15 per cent, according to one think-tank.” John Ivison predicts “Canadians will have enough food to eat. But it will be more expensive.”

 

Cargill reduces beef production at Alberta plant as virus spreads

2020/04/14

Topic: Reduced production at Cargill plants

“The Canadian arm of U.S. agribusiness Cargill temporarily idled its second production shift at High River, Alberta, on Monday, spokesman Daniel Sullivan said.”  Workers unsuccessfully asked that the plant, along with two others in Alberta, close for two weeks amid COVID-19 safety concerns. “Thirty-eight workers at the Cargill plant have tested positive for coronavirus.” “The union said the plant, which produces patties for McDonald’s Corp, is now slaughtering 1,500 head of cattle per day, down from around 4,500.”

 

Covid-19 will compound ASEAN’s long-term food security challenges – new report

2020/04/14

Topic: Food security in Southeast Asia

A study commissioned by Food Industry Asia found that “Southeast Asia’s food supply chain was already at risk of serious disruption, even before Covid-19 hit earlier this year. What the pandemic has done is underscore frailties that already existed and brought them to the fore, says Steven Bartholomeusz, policy director and head of advocacy and communications at FIA.” Rapid urbanization and increased consumption across the region has strained food supply chains, and COVID-19 has exacerbated these issues. “According to FIA, addressing these issues – not just in light of Covid-19, but with a longer-term view – is going to require extensive collaboration between public and private sector players in Southeast Asia.”

 

Part-time, contract and seasonal workers now qualify for COVID-19 emergency benefits

2020/04/15

Topic: Expansion of CERB rules

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a loosening of the rules that determine who is eligible for CERB. Those working reduced hours, “seasonal workers, and those who have recently run out of employment insurance will now also be eligible for CERB.” “He also announced a wage boost for essential workers who make less than $2,500 a month, including those working in long-term care facilities for the elderly.”

 

Trump administration aims to buy milk, meat to help farmers hit by coronavirus: Perdue

2020/04/15

Topic: Trump administration aims to buy milk and meat from U.S. farmers

“The Trump administration plans to buy milk and meat from U.S. farmers as part of an initial $15.5 billion effort to help them weather the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Wednesday.” Pressure from the U.S. farm lobby pushed the administration towards this decision. “On Tuesday, the National Pork Producers Council, which represents U.S. hog farmers, called on the administration to help by purchasing more than $1 billion in pork, and using it to supplement food bank programs facing increased demand due to rising unemployment.” Separately, the Department of Homeland Security announced an easing of restrictions on hiring immigrant workers for agricultural businesses.

 

COVID-19 cases confirmed at 3 Alberta meat-packing plants

2020/04/15

Topic: Third Alberta meat packing plant confirms COVID-19 cases

Three cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the JBS plant in Brooks, Alta. Cases have also been identified at the Cargill plant in High River (38), and Harmony Beef in Balzac (1). “The number of cases at Cargill have prompted Alberta Health Services to open a dedicated testing centre at that plant this week.” The union reached out to those plants, in addition to the Olymel pork plant in Red Deer, to request that they close to keep workers safe. All declined, although Cargill has significantly reduced production. “A cattle industry group has reached out to the federal government to ask that measures be put in place to slow the supply chain, as plants have to change operations to adapt.”

 

SoftBank, one of 2019’s top agrifood investors, forecasts $24bn loss on its startup bets

2020/04/15

Topic: Projected losses for agrifood startups

“One of last year’s biggest tech investors in agrifood globally has warned of an eye-watering ¥2.6 trillion ($24.2 billion) annual loss on its startup bets.” Softbank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son expects 15 companies in its Vision Fund portfolio to go bankrupt. Much of this projected loss, however, can be attributed to already poor performance across Softbank’s portfolio, including massive disappointments such as WeWork.

 

Chicken farmers to shrink national flock by 12% as coronavirus takes toll on Canada’s food supply chain

2020/04/16

Topic: Reduction of national flock by Chicken Farmers of Canada

Fears grow that chicken farmers may produce above demand due to mass closures in the restaurant industry. Chicken Farmers of Canada has decided to shrink the national flock by 12.6 per cent this summer. “Chickens can’t stay on farms longer than planned because they’d keep growing, overcrowding barns. So farmers would be forced to cull their flocks if they aren’t able to send their chickens to processing plants.” “‘I can’t foresee the day where we will have a shortage of meat for the Canadian consumer,’ Richard Davies, Olymel’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing, said. ‘We’d be in a scenario where we would have massive culling, massive plant closures, massive this, massive that. When I look at Europe, which is dealing with COVID-19 on a much bigger scale … I’ve yet to see any culling. And I have yet to see any significant reduction in slaughter.’”

 

 

Compiled: 2020/04/15

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan

Topic: The Government of Canada’s COVID-19 economic response plan

“The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive action to help Canadians facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

 

Avoiding layoffs and rehiring employees

Topic: Extending the Work Sharing Program 

Notice from the Government of Canada:

“We are extending the maximum duration of the Work-Sharing program from 38 weeks to 76 weeks for employers affected by COVID-19. This measure will provide income support to employees eligible for Employment Insurance who agree to reduce their normal working hours because of developments beyond the control of their employers.

Apply to the Work-Sharing program.

 

Supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Lidl go on hiring spree

2020/03/21

Topic: UK supermarkets have gone on a hiring spree as demand surges as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

UK supermarket chains Tesco, Aldi, Asda, and Lidl “have embarked on big recruitment drives for a total of more than 30,000 jobs,” due to the increased demand for food and household products. Despite safety precautions taken by the chains, “Consultant cardiologist Dr Lisa Anderson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this would lead to cross-infection. She said: ‘It’s not just about the risk to ourselves and our family; we’re travelling home on the Tube and on buses, we’re cross-infecting everybody at the moment.’ Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the programme he agreed the move by supermarkets could pose a risk.”

 

Coronavirus: Nearly 1 million Canadians applied for EI last week

2020/03/24

Topic: EI applications balloon

“The number of jobless claims received by the government between Monday, March 16 and Sunday, March 22 has reached 929,000, a source with knowledge of the data confirmed to Global News [….] Emergency measures approved so far include extending unemployment benefits to those who don’t qualify for EI, expanding coverage to those who must self-isolate and aren’t eligible for EI sickness benefits, and income support for parents who are unable to earn income while schools are closed as a result of child-care duties.”

 

Farmers aren’t the only ones worried about the food supply chain this time

2020/03/29

Topic: The current vulnerability of supply chains reveals the need for reform

“The agricultural sector operates more often than not on the assumption that its needs are being sidelined. COVID-19 presents the sector with a challenge because of its additional uncertainty, but it also presents us with an opportunity to engage the federal government in novel ways.” Food security must become a priority for legislators. The agricultural sector should take a central role in the current multi-ministerial conversation on maintaining the welfare of Canadians. “The agricultural sector should be saying, first and foremost, that we produce food for a world that is now in crisis and we are here to work collaboratively and make good on the feed-the-world/environmental-stewardship narrative we too often use strategically instead of intentionally.”

 

‘It’s catastrophic.’ Coronavirus forces Florida farmers to scrap food they can’t sell

2020/03/31

Topic: Florida farmers forced to dispose of produce.

The widespread closure of restaurants has forced Florida farmers to scrap millions of pounds of produce. The perishable nature of fresh fruits and vegetables means that only a certain amount of the harvest makes it to the consumer in time. “Harvesting that fruit can cost more than twice as much as simply razing it.” One of the largest problems is distribution: “In South Florida, even the biggest non-profits are having trouble moving the mountains of quickly ripening produce into the hands of hungry people who need it.” Food banks are overwhelmed with donations, and still the clock ticks on produce in the fields.

 

Desperate for revenue, some small businesses say 75% wage subsidy won’t help them stay afloat

2020/03/31

Topic: Shortcomings of the government wage subsidy for small business owners

The cost of rent, among other expenses for small business owners means that wage subsidies can only go so far. “The overwhelming majority of small-business owners the Post spoke to said the wage subsidy will definitely help in making sure more people have an income over the next few months, but it will not help them stay in business.” Businesses that have varying income from month to month are having trouble proving the 30-per-cent loss in revenue that is required to qualify for the subsidy. One business owner said, “In the short term, I appreciate the government measures, and they will help small businesses a little. But for me, in the long term, if this goes on, I will have no choice but to close down.”

 

Pastured Meat Producers are Facing Catastrophic Losses. These Efforts Could Help Them Weather the Pandemic.

2020/03/31

Topic: Communities help livestock producers shift to new markets

“‘Farmers are facing heartbreaking decisions,’ said Andrew Gunther, executive director of A Greener World, the organization that offers Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) certification. ‘[They can] slaughter animals with no market and store products at significant cost, change the animals’ diet, hoping the market returns quickly, or effectively dump products into the commodity market at a price below production.’” In an effort to help, shuttered restaurants in communities across America hosted pop-up markets for their network of farms and ranches. “A second wave of support for small farms came from dozens of agriculture organizations—from state departments of agriculture and farm bureaus to community-based organizations and university extension offices. These entities curated webpages of COVID-19 resources for farmers with FAQs, health safety protocols, financial assistance, and free trainings.” Retail and direct to consumer meat sales have skyrocketed thanks to these efforts, replacing some of the lost wholesale revenue.

 

Canada’s food supply at risk as pandemic tightens borders to farm workers

2020/04/01

Topic: COVID-19’s strain on temporary foreign worker programs for Canadian farms

The usual influx of temporary foreign workers hired to work on Canadian farms is delayed this year due to COVID-19. The federal government has said that they will admit the typical 60,000 workers, but immigration logistics are slowed. Concerns have been raised by migrant advocacy groups about the close-quarters accommodations that these workers will inhabit. “The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in the country’s food system, including the agricultural sector’s dependence on seasonal temporary foreign workers and the free flow of people across borders, said Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph.”

 

Germany to relax coronavirus border controls for farm workers

2020/04/02

Topic: Measures taken by Germany to allow migrant workers to enter the country during harvesting and planting season

Germany’s agriculture ministry and interior ministry have agreed to allow 40,000 migrant workers to enter the country in April, and another 40,000 in May. “The workers should travel by air rather than by bus to protect against the threat of coronavirus, the agriculture ministry said. A series of other conditions include seasonal workers undergoing a medical check and keeping their distance from one another while they work, while their accommodation should only contain half the normal number of people.”  Germany’s agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner says the arrangement will accomplish two things: “Protection from infection on one side and securing the harvest on the other side.”

 

Agri-foodtech VCs assess Covid-19’s impact on the sector and portfolios

2020/04/02

Topic: Venture Capitalists point to stability in food and agricultural industries

“Operationally, foodtech and agtech companies will be less impacted than many other sectors as they fall under the “essential industry” category, and in some cases, we’re seeing a spike in demand,” said Rob Leclerc of AgFunder. There will undoubtedly be disruption in agri-foodtech as supply chains and logistics are disrupted, but industries deemed “essential” by global governments have some amount of security. “‘I think industrialized agriculture will remain,’ acknowledges [Mark] Kahn, whose investment firm Omnivore focuses on high-impact technologies. He cites processed food companies like Campbell’s and those making frozen foods that have experienced a surge in sales in recent weeks.” Agri-foodtech venture capitalists are “excited to see what new innovations ultimately emerge from startups confronting current market challenges, and trying to help the agri-food sector boost its resilience to future crises.”

 

Food security experts warn of supply shortages, higher prices due to global pandemic

2020/04/03

Topic: The need for an overhaul of the food supply chain in Canada.

“Various problems caused by the pandemic — border closures restricting the movement of foreign farm workers, transportation and import bottlenecks, panic hoarding at grocery stores — can all contribute “massively” to higher prices or food shortages” says Elaine Power, a food security expert at Queen’s University. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced $100 for food banks and breakfast clubs, which many Indigenous and Northern communities rely on. Valerie Tarasuk, a nutritional sciences expert at the University of Toronto “said today’s announcement of $100 million funding for food banks is a “bigger band-aid” and that more systemic changes are needed to address food insecurity.” Sylvain Charlebois, a food distribution and security expert at Dalhousie University says the entire food system is affected, and calls for greater reform, pointing to Canada’s reliance on temporary foreign workers.

 

Why consumers don’t need to worry about a lack of food at grocery stores for now

2020/04/03

Topic: Food production has spiked in Canadian factories

The production of food items such as Kraft Dinner has been deemed essential and its continuity has been ensured by several backup failsafes. Empty shelves in stores “aren’t a sign of shrinking supplies, but the result of a natural lag in logistics.” Grocery stores across the country have taken measures, such as reducing hours and limiting customers, to lighten the strain on their inventory, and not because of shortages.

 

U.S. dairy farmers dump milk as pandemic upends food markets

2020/04/03

Topic: Disruptions in milk supply chains prevents farmers from getting their products to market

“Mass closures of restaurants and schools have forced a sudden shift from those wholesale food-service markets to retail grocery stores, creating logistical and packaging nightmares for plants processing milk, butter and cheese.” The shift from wholesale to retail cannot be made easily, as “It would take millions of dollars, for instance, to install new equipment to switch a plant from making one type of cheese – such as barrel cheese used to make processed slices for fast-food restaurants – to producing cheddar wedges for grocers.” As a result, dairy cooperatives have begun instructing farmers to dump their milk, even as demand skyrockets.

 

Rex Murphy: A COVID-19 wake-up call: Canada must stop this self-destruction

2020/04/03

Topic: Rex Murphy says Canada must become more self-sufficient

Rex Murphy argues that Canadian energy and mining are unduly hamstrung by federal regulations. “The stability of our economy should not be shackled to the noxious policies of Russia and Saudi Arabia, nor should the thousands of workers in the energy and mining sectors be cast aside for the delusive and worrisome ambitions of international and national pressure groups organized around global warming.” “Environmentalism is a detractive enterprise. It is a self-wound to the idea of national self-sufficiency.” “Take care first of your own citizens, which means limiting the contingencies of external dependence.”

 

Dairy farmers dump milk over demand issues

2020/04/03

Topic: Canadian dairy farmers dump milk due to market fluctuations

“SaskMilk said milk will be dumped due to the rate of change in the market.” Production must be maintained for the comfort and safety of the animals, but due to “the near complete shutdown of the restaurant industry, as well as changing grocery shopping patterns,” not all the milk that is produced can be packaged and shipped. The Dairy Farmers of Canada said in a statement that “the entire supply chain is working diligently to react to these sudden shocks and to adjust to changes in demand for dairy and other foods.”

 

Coronavirus: Why Canada dairy farmers are dumping milk

2020/04/06

Topic: Dumping of product by Canadian dairy farmers

The shuttering of bulk buyers such as restaurants has forced dairy cooperatives to implement limits on production. “Some 500 farms have been asked to dump 5 million litres a week, according to a trade report. The policy is a volte-face from last week, when Dairy Farms of Ontario, which oversees nearly a third of Canada’s dairies, had asked farmers to increase production amid concerns about a shortage.”

 

Coronavirus Is Forcing the GOP to (Tacitly) Admit Its Ideology Is Delusional

2020/04/07

Topic: Opinion piece on the failures of the Republican Party

Eric Levits asserts that the COVID-19 disaster has made clear some truths that expose the delusions of modern American conservative ideology: “1. Undocumented immigrants are among the most indispensable contributors to the American economy [….] 2. The administrative state needs to be reconstructed [….] 3. The “free market” is a big government program.” “The same affinity for self-affirming delusions and memory-obliterating nostalgia that birthed movement conservatism will ensure that it remains a plague on our body politic long after we’ve kicked COVID-19.”

 

Diesel average heads down for 13th consecutive week, reports EIA

2020/04/07

Topic: Falling diesel prices

“On an annual basis, this week’s average is down 54.5 cents compared to the same week last year, topping annual spreads of 49.2 cents, 42.1 cents, 33.7 cents, and 26.5 cents, respectively, over the previous four weeks.” Gasoline could fall below $2 a gallon in the coming weeks.

 

Dairy farmers seek government help as lockdown forces milk dumping

2020/04/08

Topic: UK dairy farmers request government aid

Along with American and Canadian dairy farmers, UK dairy farmers have been hit by the closure of restaurants and other bulk purchasers. “The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, an industry body, on Tuesday evening asked the government to ‘reimburse dairy farmers who are receiving a significantly reduced value or are having to dispose of their milk as a result of their processor being heavily reliant on the food service sector.’” The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is in talks with the industry about support.

 

‘They should open it up’: Why some small businesses have been shut out of COVID-19 emergency loan program

2020/04/08

Topic: Limitations in the COVID-19 emergency loan program for small businesses

Some small businesses are being left behind by the Canada emergency business account (CEBA). “One of the problems is that the loans require businesses to have paid out at least $50,000 in salaries last year. That could exclude some self-employed people and other sole proprietors.” CBC profiles four small businesses that do not qualify for the CEBA loan. “A lot of times those are the types of businesses who get hit the hardest during a crisis.”

 

As borders harden during pandemic, some countries look to hold on to their own food

2020/04/08

Topic: Food exports tighten under COVID-19 crisis

“A steady rise in countries limiting or banning food exports has triggered warnings from U.N. food agency leaders about possible disruptions to the global food supply as the world retrenches amid the coronavirus pandemic — potentially making critical staples such as wheat and rice more costly and harder to find.” Regions that import much of their food are likely to suffer, the UN warns. “As recently as 2011, food export bans in Ukraine and Russia had a devastating impact, leading to hunger and protests in Africa, and potentially contributing to Arab Spring unrest.” Currently, less than one percent of the global food value has been affected, but experts fear cascading effects. 

 

A disastrous situation’: mountains of food wasted as coronavirus scrambles supply chain

2020/04/09

Topic: Waste of produce and dairy due to COVID-19 crisis

“As US food banks handle record demand and grocery stores struggle to keep shelves stocked, farmers are dumping fresh milk and plowing vegetables back into the dirt as the shutdown of the food service industry has scrambled the supply chain.” Retail cannot absorb the millions of pounds of produce that were previously destined for food service. Dairy producers are forced to do the same: “The loss of food service business, particularly schools systems that are large buyers of dairy products, has left producers with a highly perishable glut that they can’t easily resolve.” With food banks and grocery stores full, there is uncertainty as to where the gap in the supply chain can be filled.

 

Canada sheds record 1.01 million jobs in March

2020/04/09

Topic: Loss of jobs due to COVID-19 crisis

Statistics Canada shares grim numbers on employment: “the jobless rate surged to 7.8 percent, up from 5.6 percent in February.” “The March report, based on a survey of households from March 15 to March 21, may be just a preview of even uglier numbers in the coming months as the economy heads for possibly its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.” The downturn is widespread, hitting all provinces. The surge in unemployment is largely due to temporary layoffs, or workers expected to return to their jobs in six months.

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