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The Coming Global Food Fight
Europe is experiencing the biggest cost of living increase in a generation. And according to a Bloomberg report, the crisis is far from over — food is the latest sector to be affected. While inflation has eased, food prices remain stubbornly high and the percentage of household budgets spent in supermarkets on food has increased. This has triggered strikes and protests and calls for wage increases. According to Rabobank Group analysts, some parts of Europe are seeing price hikes that exceed any in post-war Europe. Inflation has fallen to 6-7 percent but food inflation is 16 percent in France, 20 percent in Germany, and more than 20 percent in Portugal.

Several Eastern European countries agreed to help Ukraine get its grain out of the country and onto global markets after the Russian invasion blocked exports last year. Last month, Poland complained that NATO wouldn’t let it send MiGs to Ukraine. Unfortunately, all that grain is getting backed up in Eastern Europe, and it’s threatening local livelihoods. The surplus has been caused by farmers holding out for higher prices and by bottlenecks in the infrastructure.

Lenin is credited with calling wheat “the currency of currencies” while others called it Russian gold. Ukraine is familiar with the ends to which Russia will go to access gold. In the past, millions of people in Ukraine died because grain was appropriated by the USSR for sale on global markets to raise much-needed currency. Russia appropriated some 10% of Ukraine wheat after the invasion of Ukraine. It has just kicked out foreign grain traders, turning over the operations to Russian traders. Global traders will take charge of the grain from the port onward. The taxes on grain exports will continue to finance the war in Ukraine, while the global trade to the Middle East, Africa and Asia will buy continued Russian support or silence from those countries dependent on the wheat.

Call me suspicious, but in the Brazil and China discussions over food exports, China is insisting on a stronger role for COFCO, the country’s state-owned grain trader. Brazil, sensing the power this will give the company, is insisting on a seat on COFCO’s board. It’s not clear what one seat would accomplish. What is clear, however, is that in both these scenarios, farmers are likely to be the losers. And given recent meetings between Russia and China, don’t bet that COFCO isn’t one of the foreign traders that gains significant market share of Russian grain and oil seed exports. But the big winner here is Putin — Russian grain will not be traceable, and he will have more of a say in the sale of wheat and its price, giving him both money and political influence. – Jason

350 Million are ‘Marching Toward Starvation,’ Says Outgoing U.N. Food ChiefWashington Post
Among those 350 million — those the United Nations considers to have acute food insecurity, who must sell essential possessions to obtain food — 50 million people are “knocking on famine’s door,” said David Beasley, the head of the U.N.’s World Food Program. The number is up from 270 million just three years ago.
JC: We are just now beginning to see the longer-term impacts of the pandemic, especially as climate change compounds them. A nearly 30 percent increase in those with acute food insecurity is quite rapid in just three years. The number of people with food insecurity has also risen to more than 828 million since Covid began. Some 10 percent of the global population lives with food insecurity. While this number had decreased over the past 20 years, it remained stubbornly large. And the impact of the pandemic suggests that those people with acute food insecurity, or even food insecurity more generally, live in a precarious state. Their lot is not likely to be improved within the current global system and its safety nets, because climate change could create the same type of variability in global food production and supply chains as we witnessed during the pandemic — except the impacts from climate change could last for a century or more, according to many data models.
‘Rewilding’ Parts of the Planet Could Have Big Climate BenefitsInside Climate News
Restoring populations of land and marine animals in targeted “rewilding” zones would speed up biological carbon pumps that remove carbon dioxide from the air and sequester greenhouse gas where it doesn’t harm the climate, new research shows.
JC: The authors argue that the IPCC analyses overlook the multiplier effect of animals in sequestering carbon. They argue that we should focus on existing and proven strategies rather than theoretical and unproven technological strategies, which are getting much more attention at this time. Still, with less than 3 percent of the Earth ecologically functional, if we focus on key species like marine fish, whales, sharks, gray wolves, wildebeest, African forest elephants, sea otters, musk ox and American bison these species and groupings could sequester almost 500 gigatons of carbon by 2100. Oswald Schmitz, professor of population and community ecology at the Yale School of the Environment, says that with a carbon price of $30/MT, the American bison would be worth double to triple the return on cattle. Sequestering carbon and bringing back biodiversity — what’s wrong with that picture?
A $24 Billion Wave of Climate Losses Face Meat and Dairy FirmsBloomberg News
Forty of the world’s largest livestock producers may collectively see profits fall by almost $24 billion in 2030 from 2020 levels, as a result of climate change, according to an estimate by a large investor group known as FAIRR. The forecast reduction in profits mainly reflects a jump in feed prices and carbon taxes.
JC: With only seven years to go, this would have to be a shift that is much more rapid than we have seen to date. Feed ingredient prices have increased, but not yet to the levels alluded to here. And while there has been a lot of talk about carbon taxes. there has been little action. In fact, very few global companies, much less countries, have even made Scope 3 emissions targets, and far fewer have started to meet them. And then there is the fact that Cargill — a trader, feed company, and producer of several animal proteins — had its most profitable year ever last year, which by itself would go a long way to balancing $24 billion in losses.
Bird Flu Poses Ongoing Threat for Global Poultry SectorFeed Navigator
The development of avian influenza (AI) is the big wild card for poultry trade in 2023; the disease poses an ongoing global threat, especially if Brazil's southern states are hit by outbreaks. Bird flu has continued to spread further into Latin America, getting closer to Brazil’s southern states, which account for more than 60 percent of the country’s production.
JC: This isn’t the first time that avian flu has spread around the world. What we have seen in the past is that bird migrations carry the disease to new areas. As France knows, after losing most of its poultry to avian flu a few years ago, the best defense at this time is closed systems that protect animals from bird-born diseases. If we want free range birds on farms and menus we will need to find a vaccine for avian flu. Millions of birds have already died, so what is it worth to the industry to double down on vaccine research? 
In Africa's fields, a plan to pay fair wages for chocolate withersReuters
More chocolate than ever is eaten globally, but a program launched in 2019 that promised a living wage to growers in top cocoa producers Ivory Coast and Ghana has left many worse. Farmers said they were paid well below a price set by the government, itself lower than the price promised when the scheme was launched.
JC: This is no surprise. For a decade or two cocoa has been the commodity with all the key global social and environmental impacts headed in the wrong direction. Some have been trending wrong for three decades. What is also clear is that once again the price promised by the companies never materialized. But also unsurprising is that the governments skimmed off the price paid even before the producers received anything. For generations, cocoa sector export earnings have been used to cover government budgets without investing sufficiently back in the industry to make it more sustainable and entice the next generation to become farmers. Think about it.
Heartland Lawmakers Push Bans on Chinese Purchases of American FarmsWashington Post
With relations between the United States and China near a 40-year low, Chinese ownership of American farmland has suddenly flared into controversy. Twenty-seven states are considering proposals that would ban or restrict foreign acquisitions of agricultural land. Congress may require future sales to be cleared by a government investment committee.
JC: There was a similar rection a couple of decades ago when Japanese companies and individuals began to invest in US companies and farmland. The same hue and cry became common, but it never amounted to many investments or the impacts that were feared. What did result, among other things, was an influx of cash into entertainment and an increase in exports of specialty rice and beef to Japan. China may be a different story. It has less land and water per capita than most other countries and the largest population (at least until India overtakes it). Income is increasing and consumption is following closely behind. China needs to invest in other countries to ensure that its people have food. The president of Brazil is travelling to China this weekend to negotiate about lending money to Brazil to help rehabilitate degraded land and make production more sustainable and resilient. In exchange, China gets the repayment of the loan with interest as well as long-term contracts to buy food in local currency rather than dollars. The question is, if countries negotiate to buy food, shouldn’t they pay a price that actually covers the social and environmental costs of production? It is likely that for many products even 1% on the FOB price would make a huge difference — if 100% of it went to producers.
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