Compiled 02/06/2020

265 Million People Could Face Hunger in ‘Unprecedented’ Crisis, World Food Program Expert Warns


Topic: UN World Food Programme’s Chief Economist warns that 265 million people could go hungry in 2020

Arif Husain, UN World Food Programme’s Chief Economist, tells TIME that severe job losses, lockdown measures, trade restrictions, and major disruptions to food supply chains due to COVID-19 may result in an estimated 265 million people going hungry in 2020. Husain emphasises that treating the agricultural sector as an essential sector is critical to preventing the risk of global food supplies running low. He also cautions against trade barriers, such as export bans or import subsidies, maintained by countries like Russia during the pandemic, stating that “‘Starving your neighbor is never a good policy.’”

Meng loses key decision in extradition case


Topic: Meng Wanzhou’s application to end extradition hearings dismissed

In a decision released Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed the application of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei and daughter of the telecommunication firm’s founder Ren Zhengfei, to end the extradition process. In the written judgement, Holmes concluded that “‘as a matter of law, the double criminality requirement of extradition is capable of being met in this case.’” Allegations against Meng include making false statements to HSBC, misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship with Skycome Tech Co., and putting HSBC at risk of violating US sanctions against Iran. Holmes states as the extradition case may consider the sanctions as part of the legal analysis, she is dismissing Meng’s application to end the extradition hearings. Whether there is enough evidence admissible under the Extradition Act that would justify Meng’s committal for trial in Canada in the offence of fraud is subject to later stages in the proceedings, Holmes notes.

Covid-19 crisis highlights supply chain vulnerability


Topic: COVID-19 emphasises which sectors of the supply chain are the most vulnerable

Financial Times writer Judith Evans considers how COVID-19 has revealed which sectors of the global food supply chain are the most vulnerable. Some producers, such as foodmaker Nestlé, have the flexibility to navigate the pandemic and remain resilient. Other sectors, such as meat-packing and processing plants and dairy farmers, are vulnerable to issues of outbreaks, surplus product, and lack of demand. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy for COVID-19, is quoted as emphasising the need for more support for smallholders in the agriculture industry, particularly for those farmers in poor countries “‘where all farmers work on limited margins and are often in debt.’” Evans notes that the broader economic effects of the virus are pushing millions into food poverty, referencing the World Food Programme’s estimation that 265 million people will be in acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. In response to the “fragmented” way that food works and the question of food security, Nabarro says that “‘as well as operating with different commodities and products . . . we need an integrated view of how every individual can get the nourishment that we need.’”

All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization


Topic: Data visualisation puts the world’s money and markets on the same scale and canvas

Following the “large numbers” being announced by governments and financial media in the wake of current economic circumstances during COVID-19, Visual Capitalist writer Jeff Desjardins presents a data visualisation that puts the world’s money and markets on the same scale. Two of these “large numbers” Desjardins highlights is the projection that the US budget deficit of 2020 will hit $3.8 trillion and the announcement of the US Federal Reserve’s “open-ended” asset-buying programs to support the economy, which would add to its current $7 trillion balance sheet. Of this data visualisation, Desjardins compiles a full list summarising the world’s money and markets from the smallest to the largest monetary value, beginning with above-ground silver stocks (valued at $44 billion USD) and ending with derivatives (estimated value at $1 quadrillion USD or more in notional value).

Province wants locals to fill hundreds of vacant jobs in absence of temporary foreign workers


Topic: BC asks locals to fill vacant jobs in absence of temporary foreign workers

Following a deficit in labour, as only 1,500 of the 6,000-8,000 labourers required for agricultural production have arrived in the province before COVID-19 travel restrictions, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham is urging BC locals to seek jobs as crop and seafood harvesters, food processing and farmworkers, and machinery operators. The ministry launched the B.C. Farm, Fish & Food Job Connector website, meant to connect locals with available jobs in these sectors. Popham also expresses concern that some farmers are planting and harvesting less food due to the current and future labour shortages, citing that farmers and producers are “‘scaling back some of their production to reflect the labour that’s available to them.’”

OPIS Canadian Rack Report

Topic: OPIS report subscription delivers pricing and analysis of fuel chain in real time

The OPIS Canadian Rack Report provides and compares wholesale supplier prices at all major Canadian locations and alternative US locations for gasoline, diesel, furnace oil, stove oil, and biodiesel. It also gives subscribers daily crude spot prices and a weekly range for a variety of LPGs. Each daily report provides expert news analysis and keeps subscribers up-to-date on companies moving into Canada and trends impacting the market.

Will Coronavirus Be What Finally Kills Factory Farming?


Topic: Opinion piece considers how COVID-19 has and will impact factory farming

Newsweek writers Em Heppler and Michael Shank discuss how slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants are “among the worst COVID-19 hot spots for humans.” Citing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Heppler and Shank state that difficulties of physical distancing, the high rates of injury and illness, unmet safety concerns, and factory farming’s role in disease transmission means that investors and regulators have pulled back from the industry. “COVID-19 may be the animal product industry’s death knell,” they write. Heppler and Shank also point to competition and costs as threats to the financial viability of factory farming, advising investors that the “relatively meager returns” they can expect from factory farming operations “are not worth exposure to the increasing volatility and risk faced by the sector.”

Compiled 24/05/2020

Wheat extends losses as bumper global stocks weigh


Topic: US wheat prices pushed to their lowest in nearly a month due to COVID-19

Surplus global stocks and low demand due to COVID-19 have pushed wheat prices down to their lowest in nearly a month, Hellenic Shipping News states, with US wheat futures falling on Monday, May 18, 2020. The US Department of Agriculture projected that wheat exports from Russia, Canada, Australia, and Argentina would increase in 2020/21 while US exports would decline. On the Chicago Board of Trade, the most active wheat futures fell 0.2 percent to $4.99-½ a bushel. The most active corn futures were 0.6 percent higher at $3.20-¾ and the most active soybean futures rose 0.3 percent to $8.40-¾ a bushel. 

Australia ‘deeply disappointed’ after China imposes 80% tariff on barley imports


Topic: Australian trade minister discusses appealing China’s imposition of 80% tariff on barely imports

Trade minister Simon Birmingham suggested that Australia may appeal China’s imposition of a 73.6 percent anti-dumping tariff and a 6.9 percent anti-subsidy tariff applied to all Australian barley. Australia’s barley trade with China is understood to cover about half of all barley exports. The Australian Associated Press writes that “there are growing suspicions that China is punishing Australia for pushing for an international investigation into the Covid-19 pandemic, and particularly the source of the outbreak.” At the World Health Assembly on Monday, May 18, 2020, more than 110 countries co-sponsored an Australian-backed push for an independent international coronavirus inquiry. Birmingham admitted that China had “long-standing grievances” over Australian tariffs on its steel but emphasized that “anti-dumping disputes shouldn’t be resolved by scorecard though. They should be resolved on the merits of each individual argument.”

Fifth report of the monitor


Alvarez & Marsel Canada Inc, acting as Monitor, have been in the process of implementing the wind-down of the retail farm implement dealership operated by Morris Sales and Services Ltd (MSS), the wind-down first announced on March 5, 2020. Working with independent contractors to divest the remaining assets and inventory of MSS, the Monitor projects all remaining assets and inventory to be sold or relocated to Morris Industries Ltd by May 31, 2020. By the Monitor and its legal counsel, MSS delivered notices to various third-party manufacturers of the intent to terminate dealership agreements and to return third-party branded equipment to their respective manufacturers. The Monitor currently does not have an acceptable offer from the sales and investment solicitation process order, first provided by the Court on January 16, 2020, and continues to explore other options. The eleven claims that were previously under review, were revised, or were disallowed in the Fourth Report have been updated. A comparison of the Morris Group’s actual cash receipts and disbursements to the cash flow forecast added in the Fourth Report shows that the Morris Group experienced a net unfavourable flow of $7.4 million. An updated cash flow forecast projects the net cash flow as positive $10.3 million. The Morris Group seek an extension of the stay period to May 29, 2020.

Advocates try to address mental health for farmers as pandemic adds to stress


Topic: Advocates address mental wellness for farmers during pandemic

CTV News writers Sandie Rinaldo and Solarina Ho cover mental health and wellness challenges in the agriculture industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rinaldo and Ho interview three farmers who are advocates for mental wellness for farmers. One of the advocates, Saskatchewan-based Lesley Kelly, is a co-founder of the non-profit charity Do More Ag. The charity provides support systems and resources for farmers under immense stress and generates conversation around mental wellness. Kelly tells CTV News that through her charity, “thousands of people are reaching out to share their stories.”

Compiled 14/05/2020

2020 Farm Tech Investment Report

Topic: AgFunder’s 2020 Farm Tech Investment Report

In their flagship report, AgFunder notes that farm tech startup investment has grown 370% since 2013, with $4.7 billion invested in farm tech funding in 2019. The report anticipates investment to drop in 2020 as a result of the economic fallout of COVID-19 but expects that certain farm tech categories have the potential to become more attractive to investors, such as startups supporting local supply chains and food security. 

John Tyson Laments Breakdown of Meat System His Family Pioneered


Topic: US meat-packing company impacted by COVID-19

John Tyson, Tyson Foods chairman and billionaire, voices concern for the future of meat-packing plants and the flow of meat to US retail markets as disruptions to the food supply chain continue in the wake of COVID-19. TechnoCodex writer Abhishek Shrma outlines the “storied lineage” of Tyson Foods, the largest meat-packing company in the US that “supplied meat that was plentiful, reliable, and cheap.” Forced to suspend operations at six plants since early April as a result of the pandemic, Shrma quotes Christopher Leonard, author of The Meat Racket—a book documenting the industrial meat system and Tyson Foodswho states that “the closures [of the plants] show how concentrating the meat supply into fewer, larger slaughterhouses employing thousands of workers had led to the ‘most narrow bottleneck in American agribusiness.’”

Americans embrace country lifestyle under lockdown


Topic: Americans invest in farming goods and rural life amidst concerns over food security

Farming goods chain Tractor Supply reports increased sales as American families take to gardening, soil tilling, and chicken breeding as disruptions in the global supply chain sparks fears of food security. Mr Lawton, chief executive of Tractor Supply, noted that the spike in sales first began in March when the COVID-19 crisis started to develop. “‘Families want to do things together,’” states Mr Lawton to Financial Times writer James Fontanella-Khan. “‘Getting out in the yard and planning a garden, tilling the soil, creating the bed, and then planting the garden, and then ultimately harvesting itwe see a lot of those projects happening right now.’” Mr Lawton anticipates that these changes in customers’ taste and the increased demand for delivery of the products they buy are part of a “new normal” that is “here to stay.”

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

Posted 26/04/2020; Updated 14/05/2020

Topic: COVID-19 pandemic impacts Canada’s potato, meat, and fish and shellfish sectors

The Canadian potato, meat, and fish and shellfish sectors face hardship due to a surplus of product, plant closures, and lack of demand from the food service industry. The closure of meat-packing plants in Alberta and Ontario and the uncertain profitability of fish and shellfish harvesting during COVID-19 may spell out higher prices and potential shortages of specific products, Agriculture and Agri-food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau cautions. The Canadian Potato Council requested “‘urgent required interventions’” from Bibeau as potato growers were forced to retain about 1.4 million tonnes of last year’s crop. The surplus results from a lack of demand for frozen potato products or fresh potatoes due to restaurant closures. The Council is pushing a “Canada Purchase Program” first motioned by NDP MP Gord Johns, where the federal government would become the buyer of last resort for agricultural products where demand has decreased. 

‘Every Canadian is now watching Cargill:’ Meatpacking plant to reopen despite pleas from union


Topic: Union leave scathing note after failed attempts to block the reopening of Cargill meat-packing plant

An outbreak of COVID-19 in Cargill’s High River meat-packing plant that led to 921 confirmed staff cases and one death prompted the union United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 to campaign against the reopening of the plant after Cargill halted operations for 14 days. In a note to its members working at Cargill, UFCW stated that “‘Every Albertan and every Canadian is now watching Cargill . . . The numbers don’t lie. If Cargill doesn’t act to salvage their reputation, no one is going to buy their beef.’” While Cargill and Alberta Health have established new safety measures for the plant prior to reopening, the union argues that both parties ignored the union’s input on these measures and “overlooked on-the-ground realities for workers at the plant.” The union also appealed to Alberta’s labour ministry to issue a stop-work order to Cargill. 

A Smart Guide to the U.S. Meat Shortage


Topic: Guide for US consumers to navigate shortages in meat supply

Disruptions in production at US meat-packing plants due to COVID-19 has led to higher retail prices, buying limits in grocery stores, and shortages in specific popular items such as ground beef and chicken breasts. Wall Street Journal writers Jaewon Kang and Jacob Bunge interview several families and grocery chain representatives about their experiences with buying limits, higher prices and less selection, and plant-based meat alternatives. 

Global adoption of 25 farming practices could reduce CO2 emissions by 4.6 GT by 2025 – new McKinsey report


Topic: McKinsey & Company identifies 25 measures to reduce on-farm emissions 

Summarizing McKinsey & Company’s report, Agriculture and Climate Change: Reducing emissions through improved farming practices, AgFunder News writer Lauren Stine informs readers of McKinsey’s 25 proposed agricultural practices meant to reduce on-farm emissions. Listing all 25 practices, Stine includes links to examples of startups that are putting these practices in place. Of these practices, Stine notes most center on optimizing the use of existing resources, reducing fuel emissions, and improving soil health. Stine also reports McKinsey’s acknowledgement of the challenges surrounding adopting these new practices due to the “complicated” nature of food production and that “more individual buy-in is necessary in order to move the adoption needle.”

Reducing agriculture emissions through improved farming practices


Topic: McKinsey & Company propose how 25 proven GHG-efficient farming technologies and practices can reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2050

Noting that one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to agricultural production, McKinsey recommends 25 measures to reduce on-farm emissions that would abate up to 4.6 gigatons of carbon emissions by 2050. These measures are organized into a marginal abatement cost curve, with each measure meant to provide “concrete guidance for policy makers, agriculture players, and academics alike to spur the necessary change in the agriculture sector.” The report proposes that the top 15 measures would contribute 85 percent of the report’s projected emissions abatement.

Cargill to shut Quebec beef plant temporarily, cites coronavirus outbreak


Topic: Cargill to temporarily close Quebec meat-packing plant due to COVID-19 outbreak

After 64 workers tested positive for COVID-19, Cargill announced the temporary closure of its plant in Chambly, a suburb in Montreal. Company spokesperson Daniel Sullivan cited concerns over the number of cases in the community and among its employees. “‘We currently have 64 cases,’” Sullivan states, “‘which is 13 percent of our local workforce.’” Reuters’ reporter David Ljunggren notes that Cargill intends to reopen the High River plant in early May. The High River plant had temporarily closed as a result of an outbreak of COVID-19.

Born to Run


Topic: Farmer pushes through personal hardship to spearhead own company

In an interview with Lynn Dargis, Farming for Tomorrow writer Trevor Bacque tells the story of Dargis’s agriculture career, from her first time operating a John Deere air drill on the family farm to successfully establishing her own company, Farmbucks. “Likened as an agricultural Expedia,” Bacque writes, Farmbucks helps farmers find the best deals by comparing grain prices across buyers. Dargis cites the difficulty of breaking old paradigms when it comes to trying to introduce more industry players to Farmbucks but emphasizes her commitment to helping others and to transforming the industry for the better.